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Alleged speed hump killer's trial postponed

The neighborhood dispute between David A. Patton and Stephen A. Carr in Springfield, over placing a speed hump in front of Carr's house on Field Master Drive, allegedly ended in Carr's shooting death and Patton's arrest on murder charges Sunday night.

But the dispute first erupted in June, when the men had a physical argument in Carr's driveway that also ended in Patton's arrest.

The misdemeanor assault trial for Patton was set for Thursday. But with the complaining witness, Carr, now dead, prosecutors asked a Fairfax County judge to postpone the case for two months. Patton's lawyer, Joseph J. McCarthy, did not object.

The trial was rescheduled by Fairfax General District Court Judge William J. Minor Jr. for Nov. 16.

Patton, standing in a prisoner's area behind glass in courtroom 2K of the Fairfax County courthouse, did not speak. Patton did have a cast on his left forearm and hand.

McCarthy declined to say what injury Patton had or when he got hurt.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Murphy requested the continuance, saying "the commonwealth would like to take more time to take a look at this matter." He declined to elaborate after the brief hearing, or explain how prosecutors could proceed with the case without Carr.

Carr worked with county officials for more than 18 months to slow traffic on his street, just off Sydenstricker Road, culminating in the installation of a speed hump almost in front of his house earlier this year. Neighbors said Patton, who lives a short distance away on Conservation Way, was unhappy with the hump, and was one of several drivers who would honk their horns in protest each time he passed over it.

In June, police said Patton pulled behind Carr's vehicle as Carr was trying to back into his driveway. Patton and Carr argued. After Carr began pulling into the driveway, he claimed that Patton banged on his windows and then reached into the car and assaulted him.

Police were not present and could not charge anyone. But the next day, Carr went to a magistrate and wrote up an assault complaint against Patton. The magistrate called the police officer who first responded to the call, Fairfax Officer Bud Walker said, the officer confirmed Carr's version of events, and the judge issued a misdemeanor warrant. Patton was arrested in early July.

Patton is being held in the Fairfax jail without bond on a charge of second-degree murder. His preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 19, and the Fairfax public defender has been appointed to represent him.

Post readers have repeatedly asked why a charge of first-degree, or even capital, murder was not filed. Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh initially said he did not think the case qualified as a death penalty case, though he said he was not familiar with the details and is ensconced in jury selection for the death penalty phase of convicted killer Alfredo Prieto's trial.

But magistrates and prosecutors often file second-degree murder charges in arrest warrants simply as the earliest, safest option. The charge can be upgraded at the time of a grand jury indictment, following additional investigation and a preliminary hearing in district court. In Fairfax, prosecutors almost always ask juries to convict for first-degree murder, though they are also given the options of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

-- Tom Jackman

By Tom Jackman  |  September 16, 2010; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax , From the Courthouse , Homicide , Tom Jackman , Updates  
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Posted by: skinfreak | September 16, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

There are elements that might make this a capital crime, particularly the home invasion and the imprisonment, all committed while in possession of a deadly weapon. The possession of the twist ties to bind the victims is also evidence of premeditation; Patton certainly didn't go the house to talk sports.

Given all that, I still see that the most likely outcome is threatening a capital warrant, and forcing Patton to plea to a life sentence. Capital crime prosecutions are very lengthy and expensive, and if you can send a guy to prison for life with only a plea, you almost always do it.

Posted by: ennepe68 | September 17, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

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