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Defense motions denied in slaying case

July 28, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY

andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III on Wednesday denied defense motions for him to move a trial of Steven Linn Barr on murder charges and to remove himself from the case.

Wright also turned down two other motions, but allowed Barr's attorneys to pursue an insanity defense in the trial, which starts Monday.

Barr is accused of shooting and killing William Grant, 46, in November 2004 and wounding Cathy Myers, who was 44 at the time.

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Barr, 42, whose last known address is 808 Hamilton Blvd., Hagerstown, faces single counts of first- and second-degree murder and attempted first- and second-degree murder, as well as other charges.

Police have alleged that Barr, Myers' former boyfriend, waited in the garage of her Kemps Mill Road home, near Williamsport, for four hours, then shot Myers and Grant several times each in a bedroom.

Myers survived, but Grant, her boyfriend at the time, was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Wednesday, Wright dismissed a defense claim that a comment and a facial expression Wright previously made - reported in The Herald-Mail - prejudiced the case.

At a suppression hearing in June, Wright asked Barr's attorneys in open court, "What's he going to do with all this evidence against him?"

When Assistant Public Defender Brendan Callahan replied that Barr wants a trial, Wright said, "All right," raised his brow and went to his chambers, The Herald-Mail reported then.

"I've seen the eyebrows go up many times over the years," with no clear message, Washington County State's Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr. said in court Wednesday, arguing against the defense motion.

Wright said he was concentrating on scheduling when he spoke and was not referring to potential evidence brought up at the hearing.

He also said he won't move the trial outside Washington County, as the defense requested, but said the motion can be reconsidered later.

Also on Wednesday, Wright allowed Barr's attorneys to argue during the trial that Barr was not criminally responsible for the shooting because of a mental disorder.

But Wright turned down a defense motion to have the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene evaluate Barr.

Wright said he won't let the motion, filed in the final days leading up to the trial, be "a ploy for a continuance."

There's no doubt Barr has or had a mental illness, but it's not clear how it might have affected him in November 2004, Callahan said.

A written defense motion says Barr only recently made an informed decision about a "not criminally responsible" plea.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said there's been no documentation of mental illness since Barr has been held at the Washington County Detention Center.

Wright also denied a defense motion to dismiss an indictment against Barr because a trial wasn't held within a 180-day deadline. In court papers, the prosecution says a defense postponement request delayed the trial.

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