Psychiatrist appointed to examine Elytte Barbour
SUNBURY - A Maryland psychiatrist was appointed Thursday at $600 per hour to examine accused murderer Elytte Randall Barbour and assist the defense at trial.
During a 10-minute hearing, Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor granted defense attorney James Best's request to hire Dr. Neil Howard Blumberg, a board-certified forensic psychiatrist from Timonium, Md., to examine Barbour to determine if he is competent to stand trial. Blumberg has testified for both the commonwealth and defense in his long career. His expenses in this care are not to exceed $10,000.
Best said he expects Blumberg to examine his client within the next few weeks at Columbia County Prison in Bloomsburg, where he is incarcerated. He said Barbour was in favor of Blumberg's appointment.
The county will be responsible for paying for Blumberg's services because Barbour and his wife and co-defendant, Miranda, are indigent.
Miranda Barbour remains incarcerated at Northumberland County Prison.
District Attorney Tony Rosini did not oppose the appointment, which is a common practice in homicide cases.
The 22-year-old defendant and his 19-year-old wife are charged by Sunbury police with murdering 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara, a married environmental engineer from Port Trevorton, on Nov. 11 in Sunbury. Police said the victim was stabbed approximately 20 times.
Saylor granted Rosini's request for a copy of the examination report and notification from Best if he plans to use an insanity or mental health defense at trial. The notification must be made no later than 30 days after Best receives the results of the examination.
Barbour appeared in court in white sneakers and an orange and white striped prison jumpsuit. The defendant, who was sporting a beard, conferred briefly with Best and assistant defense attorney John Broda, who is county conflicts counsel.
Rosini was assisted by first assistant district attorney Ann Targonski and Sunbury Detective Christopher Blase, one of the arresting officers.
Shortly after court was adjourned, Saylor continued a pre-trial conference scheduled for this afternoon for Miranda Barbour until 1:15 p.m. April 4.
Assistant public defender Paige Rosini, who was in court for Elytte Barbour's hearing, requested the continuance pending court action on 11 omnibus pre-trial motions filed by her and chief public defender Edward Greco Wednesday.
The motions include a change of venue (moving the trial outside the county) and/or venire (selecting a jury from outside the county) because of the extensive publicity surrounding the case. The defense also is seeking to suppress statements, including an alleged confession given to police by Miranda Barbour during interviews Dec. 1 and Dec. 2.
Greco and Paige Rosini claim the alleged confession was obtained illegally because their client was not provided an attorney at the interviews despite repeatedly requesting one.
The attorneys are seeking all statements and police reports at least two weeks prior to a suppression hearing and want to hire a private investigator and computer/electronics expert to review LaFerrara's computer and cell phones.
Greco and Paige Rosini want to quash aggravating circumstances in the case that would allow the commonwealth to seek the death penalty. Tony Rosini previously pointed out that torture was used and a felony offense of robbery (LaFerrara's wallet was stolen) was committed during the killing. Torture and robbery are among 18 aggravating circumstances in death penalty cases in the state.
A mitigating factor in death penalty cases is any information or evidence presented to the court regarding the defendant or the circumstances of the crime that might result in reduced charges or a lesser sentence.
In Pennsylvania, mitigating factors include the defendant not having any significant history of prior criminal convictions, the defendant being under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance, the defendant's capacity to understand his conduct being impaired, the age of the defendant at the time of the crime, the defendant acted under extreme duress, the victim was a participant in the defendant's homicidal conduct or consented to the acts, the defendant's participation in the homicidal act was relatively minor, and any other evidence of mitigation concerning the character and record of the defendant and the circumstances of his or her offense.
The defense lawyers want to sequester the jury and prevent any potential jurors in favor of the death penalty from being selected because they believe they would be "pro-prosecution and pro-conviction."
They also prefer having separate juries for the guilt and penalty phases of the trial and oppose the imposition of the death penalty, which they claim is a cruel, inhumane and unusual punishment that is unconstitutional.
The district attorney announced last month that he will seek the death penalty for the Barbours.
LaFerrara answered a Craigslist ad from Miranda Barbour in which she offered companionship for money, police said. Upon her arrest Dec. 3, she said she stabbed LaFerrara after he groped her and grabbed her throat.
Three days later when he was charged, Elytte Barbour told police he and his wife were both involved, and that they had devised a plot to kill LaFerrara because they wanted to kill someone together.
The Barbours had moved to Selinsgrove from North Carolina shortly before the homicide.
Rosini wants to prosecute the couple together.