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Judge opening delays a trial; Murder suspect's lawyer drops work on case.

Byline: Gary V. Murray

WORCESTER - The nomination of one of his lawyers to a Juvenile Court judgeship has led to a delay in the murder trial of a Milford man charged in a 2006 fatal stabbing.

Patrick I. Powell, 19, was scheduled to go to trial Monday in Worcester Superior Court on a murder charge in the Jan. 6, 2006, stabbing death of 21-year-old Daniel Columbo during a fight outside Mr. Columbo's Milford home. Mr. Powell and a co-defendant, 19-year-old Vinnie Ruscitti, were 16 when they were charged with the slaying.

A defense motion to continue the trial date to March 16 was allowed yesterday by Judge John S. McCann.

In his motion for the continuance, defense lawyer John G. Swomley said Kenneth J. King, his co-counsel in the case, was informed this week that he had been nominated by Gov. Deval L. Patrick to a Middlesex Juvenile Court judgeship and was advised to withdraw from all his pending court cases as soon as possible.

Mr. Swomley said Mr. King had done all of the preparation for the mental health aspects of Mr. Powell's defense and that Mr. Powell would be "severely prejudiced" if the continuance were not granted.

Mr. Swomley and Mr. King had sought to have the murder charge against their client dismissed in a motion challenging the constitutionality of a state law requiring that murder suspects between the ages of 14 and 17 be tried as adults. Subjecting Mr. Powell to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole upon a conviction for first-degree murder would amount to cruel and unusual punishment under the state and federal constitutions, the defense lawyers said in their motion, which was denied Feb. 8 by Judge Kathe M. Tuttman.

The defense contended in their challenge to the law that juvenile offenders are less culpable than adults who commit the same crimes because of the youths' psychological and cognitive immaturity. Judge Tuttman denied the motion as premature, but said it could be renewed in the event either Mr. Powell or Mr. Ruscitti was convicted of first-degree murder.

Mr. Powell allegedly inflicted the fatal stab wound to Mr. Columbo, and Mr. Ruscitti is charged as a joint venturer.

Mr. Swomley and Mr. King had planned to raise the issues of adolescent development and the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder at trial. They have filed notice that they may offer the testimony of psychologist Robert Kinscherff, identified as an expert in adolescent development and juvenile delinquency.

Mr. Swomley also said in his motion for a continuance of the trial date that he only recently received some materials from Assistant District Attorney Eduardo O. Velazquez, who is prosecuting the case, and had not had sufficient time to review them.

Mr. Velazquez told the judge Mr. Swomley's reasons for seeking a continuance were legitimate and that he was not objecting to the delay.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 27, 2008
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