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Jury deliberating Marine murder case

Suspect allegedly shouted anti-gay slur before stabbing victim

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Marine Barracks, gay news, Washington Blade

Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong was stabbed in the upper chest with a pocketknife on 8th Street, S.E., across from the Marine Barracks. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court jury completed its third day of deliberations on Tuesday without reaching a verdict over whether a 21-year-old former U.S. Marine should be found guilty of second-degree murder while armed for stabbing a fellow Marine to death after allegedly shouting an anti-gay slur during an April 2012 altercation.

Judge Russell Canan gave jurors Wednesday and Friday off for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and instructed them to return Monday, Dec. 2, to resume their deliberations.

Pfc. Michael Poth, who has since been discharged from the Marines, has been held in jail since the time D.C. police arrested him on April 21, 2012, minutes after witnesses said he stabbed Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong, 23, in the upper chest with a pocketknife on 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the Marine Barracks.

Bushong was pronounced dead less than an hour later after being taken to a hospital. An autopsy showed he died of a single knife wound that punctured his heart.

Gay congressional staff member Nishith Pandya, a friend of Bushong’s who emerged as a lead prosecution witness, testified that Poth called him and Bushong a “faggot” while the two stood with others on the sidewalk outside Mollie Malone’s restaurant and bar as Poth walked by.

Pandya, who works for U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), told the jury he’s gay and that he and Bushong, who was straight, were platonic friends.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman, the lead prosecutor in the case, said Poth hurled the anti-gay slur with the intent of provoking Bushong into a confrontation to give Poth an excuse to stab Bushong. Liebman cited testimony by witnesses that Poth became angry over a remark that Bushong made to Poth about an hour earlier when the two Marines first crossed paths on 8th Street.

A police report says Poth told D.C. police homicide detectives after the stabbing that Bushong called him a “boot,” a slang term used for a Marine just out of boot camp.

“Call me boots and the fight started,” the police report quoted Poth as saying. “He was talking shit so I stabbed him…I stabbed him because he punched me in the head,” the report quoted him as saying.

Pandya testified that Bushong never hit Poth.

In his closing argument, Liebman pointed to a civilian witness who testified that she saw someone fitting Poth’s description walking along 8th Street saying to himself he was going to stab somebody. Liebman cited testimony by a police detective that Poth told police at the time of his arrest, upon learning that Bushong was being taken to a hospital, “Good, I hope he dies.”

The prosecutor said other witnesses, including Marine guards who were watching Poth walk past them on 8th Street and nearby streets prior to the stabbing, made it clear that Poth wanted to confront Bushong again and was walking up and down the street looking for him.

“You don’t get to claim self-defense when you proclaim intent to stab someone before you come into contact with them,” Liebman told the jury. “The law doesn’t allow you to use deadly force before you have contact” in a self-defense claim, Leibman said.

Poth’s attorney, Bernard Grimm, told the jury Poth acted in self-defense and that the stabbing came after Bushong and Pandya walked toward Poth at the time of the verbal altercation outside Mollie Malone’s. Grimm said the jury should be skeptical about Pandya’s claim that Poth made an anti-gay slur.

Grimm pointed out repeatedly that Poth, who weighs 140 pounds and is five-feet-seven inches tall, was far smaller than Bushong, who was over 6 feet tall and Pandya, who weighs more than 200 pounds.

He said one of several videos obtained from security cameras deployed by businesses along 8th Street suggested that Poth had been on the ground and stood up just before the stabbing. This corroborated Poth’s claim that Bushong punched him in the head and knocked him down and that Poth stabbed Bushong in self-defense, Grimm said.

Grimm pointed to testimony by a Marine guard who witnessed part of the altercation that Bushong at one point changed directions and followed Poth after the two crossed paths on the sidewalk while walking on 8th Street.

The Marine testified that Bushong reached toward Poth and put one hand on Poth’s shoulder and motioned with his other hand as if he was about to throw a punch. It was at that time that Poth appears to have stabbed Bushong, the Marine said.

Leibman and Grimm played video footage from security cameras of several of the businesses along the street, but none of the video footage captured the stabbing.

Grimm called Pandya’s testimony unreliable, saying that Pandya told police the person who stabbed Bushong was wearing khaki colored short pants when it was clear to all other witnesses that he was wearing blue jeans. He said Pandya, knowing that the stabbing took place after Bushong followed Poth and acted as the aggressor, didn’t want police to talk to Poth out of fear that it would become clear that his friend was the instigator of the fight that broke out between Bushong and Poth.

“He was in it up to his ears,” Grimm said. “He egged Bushong on.”

Grimm also reminded the jury that witnesses said Bushong was asked to leave one of the bars on 8th Street on the night of the incident because he was intoxicated and acting in a boisterous and disruptive manor.

“Someone said don’t let him get near anyone on the street,” Grimm told the jury, saying someone in the bar feared Bushong would hurt someone.

Liebman told the jury that although Pandya got the clothing description of Poth wrong, his testimony on what unfolded between Poth and Bushong was correct.

“Mr. Grimm wants you to believe that you can’t believe anything that Mr. Pandya said,” Liebman told the jury, including Pandya’s testimony that Poth used the word “faggot” to insult Bushong.

“Mr. Pandya is gay. Do you think he heard that right?” said Liebman. “You better believe it. He had no reason to make that up.”

Although Liebman said at a pre-trial hearing in April 2012 that prosecutors considered the stabbing to be a hate crime, the government never formally charged Poth with a hate crime. A hate crime designation enables a judge to hand down a more severe sentence than what is normally required for a particular offense.

The jury began its deliberations about 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 10 days after the trial began on Nov. 12. Judge Russell Canan, who’s presiding over the trial, sent the jurors home for the weekend just before 5 p.m. They resumed deliberations about 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 25 and continued through Tuesday afternoon.

A conviction on second-degree murder while armed carries a possible maximum sentence of 70 years in jail. If the jury finds Poth not guilty on the second-degree murder charge it has the option of finding him guilty of a lesser offense of manslaughter.

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Virginia

Suhas Subramanyam wins Democratic primary in Va. 10th Congressional District

Former Obama advisor vows to champion LGBTQ rights in Congress

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Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Fairfax County) (Photo courtesy of Subramanyam's campaign)

Virginia state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun County) on Tuesday won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) in Congress.

Subramanyam won the Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District with 30.4 percent of the votes. The Loudoun County Democrat who was an advisor to former President Barack Obama will face Republican Mike Clancy in November’s general election.

“I’m thrilled to be the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 10th, and to have won this election during Pride Month,” Subramanyam told the Washington Blade on Wednesday in an emailed statement. “As I have done in the state legislature and as an Obama White House policy advisor, I will always stand as an ally with the LGBTQ+ community.”

Wexton, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights champion, last September announced she will not seek re-election after doctors diagnosed her with progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurological disorder she has described as “Parkinson’s on steroids.” Wexton is a vice chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and a previous co-chair of its Transgender Equality Task Force.

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Baltimore

Police say they didn’t spray a chemical agent at Baltimore Pride. Why don’t those who attended believe it?

Attendees allege city failed to adequately respond to emergency

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A parade participant is photographed clutching on to a rainbow flag at Baltimore’s Pride Parade held on June 15, 2024. (Photo by Ronica Edwards/Baltimore Banner)

BY BRENNA SMITH and JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | A chemical agent that disrupted Pride Parade festivities last weekend continues to cause confusion and raise suspicion among many in the Baltimore LGBTQIA+ community, who question the police account of what happened.

The Baltimore Police Department said Tuesday that they had determined the released substance was Mace, but did not say how they came to that conclusion. A BPD spokesperson said that the chemical was released after two groups of people got into an altercation. Three people were treated and released from a nearby hospital because of injuries from the spray.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Baltimore

Carlton R. Smith: LGBTQ advocate, ‘mayor’ of Mount Vernon, passes away

‘The Duchess’ died on May 29 in his sleep

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Carlton R. Smith, an LGBTQ advocate, died May 29. He was 61. (Photo courtesy of Carlton R. Smith)

BY JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | Carlton R. Smith was affectionately called “The Duchess” in a nod to royalty, because of his unofficial role of mayor of Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. He was a “walking billboard” for Calvin Klein, with a love for purple, Batman, cooking, house music, Prince, and Diana Ross.

“If you said Duchess, you knew who that was,” said his close friend of 25-years, Carrietta Hiers.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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