Shocking admission at death penalty trial
Update, 11:55 a.m.:
Defense attorneys for Mark Lawlor unloaded a bombshell in their opening statement Wednesday morning, when they admitted that Lawlor killed Gini Orange in her apartment building in 2008.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Lawlor, and Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh revealed that investigators believe Lawlor used a hammer to strike more than 30 blows to Orange, then sexually assaulted her.
Then, defense attorney Mark J. Petrovich stood and told the jury, "There will be a sentencing phase with regard to this case...Mr. Lawlor was in Ms. Orange's apartment that evening that the commonwealth described. Mr. Lawlor was there. And it was Mr. Lawlor who took Ms. Orange's life."
Petrovich said Lawlor was so high on crack cocaine, from a 12-hour binge, along with large amounts of beer, that he was heavily intoxicated. He said Lawlor was too high and drunk to have the necessary awareness and intent to commit capital murder, and therefore should not be subject to the death penalty.
"Mr. Lawlor murdered Genevieve Orange," Petrovich said. "We'll ask you to find him guilty of second-degree murder."
After more than three weeks of jury selection, opening statements are set for Wednesday morning in the capital murder trial of Mark E. Lawlor, who is accused of fatally beating Genevieve "Gini" Orange inside her Falls Church-area apartment in September 2008.
Orange, 29, lived in the Prestwick Apartments on Leesburg Pike near Seven Corners. When she didn't appear for work at the Futures Industry Association in Washington, co-workers called police, who found her body.
At a preliminary hearing in February 2009, Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said Orange had suffered more than 30 blows to the head, and a crime scene detective testified that he found semen and saliva on her body. Court records show DNA from those fluids matched Lawlor, now 45, who worked as a leasing agent in the building.
Lawlor has not raised insanity as a defense, though records show he has a history of mental disorders as well as drug and alcohol abuse. He served about five years in prison, from 1999 to 2004, for abducting a former girlfriend in Great Falls, and had been placed in the Prestwick as transitional housing while he rehabilitated after prison.
The voir dire process, which is typically pretty quick in Fairfax, extended into a fourth week on Monday and concluded on Tuesday. Jurors were initially questioned about their availability for a 10-week case, and those who did not have a ready excuse were given a short questionnaire to fill out.
In the second stage, jurors were questioned generally in groups of 20 about their knowledge of the case and experience with the justice system, as they would be in any criminal case. But a third stage, which launched last week, broke the potential jurors into groups of three, in which they were questioned more closely about their views on the death penalty and their willingness to impose it.
Lawlor's trial is the second capital murder trial in five months in Fairfax -- serial killer Alfredo R. Prieto received a death sentence in November -- and both have been prosecuted by Morrogh and Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Casey M. Lingan.
Lawlor's defenders are familiar to Morrogh: Mark J. Petrovich and Thomas B. Walsh, who opposed Morrogh and his former boss, Robert F. Horan Jr., in the trial of D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo in 2003. Ed Ungvarsky and Meghan Shapiro from the Capital Public Defender's Office also are assisting the defense.
Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Thacher is presiding over Lawlor's trial. The trial is expected to last between two and six more weeks, depending on whether the jury convicts Lawlor of capital murder, and on the length of the sentencing hearings.
| February 9, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories: Fairfax, From the Courthouse, Homicide, Tom Jackman, Updates
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