A Montgomery County judge has postponed the trial of Amy Bormel, a Germantown opioid dealer charged with second-degree murder, for six months in order to wait for the outcome in a similar case. The trial, originally scheduled for Sept. 17, is now set for March 18.
Bormel, 29, has been charged in connection with the death of 36-year-old Jennifer Johnson of Montgomery Village, who died July 11, 2017, after receiving a lethal combined dose of the drugs carfentanil, alprazolam and morphine from Bormel, whom she had met in drug rehab, according to a report from ABC 7. Bormel was indicted by a grand jury in Montgomery County Circuit Court on March 29.
At Bormel’s status hearing Wednesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Teresa Casafranca argued to Circuit Court Judge David Boynton that because there have been so few criminal trials in Maryland involving deaths from opioids, Bormel’s trial should be delayed until there is more of a precedent. Casafranca referenced the case of the State of Maryland v. Patrick Joseph Thomas, in which Thomas, the defendant, had originally been charged with manslaughter in connection with the June 2015 death of Colton Maltrey, to whom he had sold four bags of heroin, according to an opinion from the Court of Special Appeals. Thomas was convicted of manslaughter in the Circuit Court of Worcester County in 2016, but the Court of Special Appeals overturned the decision in April this year, on the grounds that there was no “causal connection” between the sale of the heroin and Maltrey’s death. Last month, the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed to hear the Thomas case. Oral arguments have not been scheduled.
Bormel’s attorney, James Farmer, became frustrated several times throughout Wednesday’s hearing, arguing that his client’s right to a speedy trial was being violated by the delay.
“The state wants a law that is better to prosecute my client,” he argued to Boynton.
Maryland law ensures a defendant’s right to a trial within 180 days after the defendant’s first court appearance unless there is “good cause” for a delay. Boynton said he thought the ruling in the Thomas case would be broad enough to have relevance to the Bormel case since both involve alleged drug dealers who were charged criminally in the death of their customers.
“Wouldn’t your client want to know if it’s determined to not be a crime?” Boynton asked Farmer.
Boynton also agreed to delay the trial for two other reasons, including so Bormel could have a bond review hearing before the trial. She is currently serving a one-year sentence at the Montgomery County Detention Center.
Boynton also agreed to the delay because Casafranca is pregnant, and the trial’s original start date was too close to her due date.
“My doctor has said I should not be in trial three days before my due date,” she told Boynton.
Farmer said he didn’t believe the pregnancy of one assistant state’s attorney constituted good cause for delay, and recommended the State’s Attorney’s Office find a replacement prosecutor. Boynton disagreed, saying the case was important enough that it should be handled by the same prosecutor.
In an interview later, Farmer reiterated his frustration with the State’s Attorney’s Office.
“It seems to me that Ms. Casafranca is adamant that she wants to make sure she is prosecuting this case,” he said. “The state really shouldn’t be required to have one specific state’s attorney who must follow a case. If there’s a conflict that they knew about nine, eight, seven months ago, such as a pregnancy, then they should assign that to a different state’s attorney.”
Farmer said he sees the value in waiting to see if the Thomas case leads to better-established case law when it comes to murder charges in connection with opioid deaths, but he is worried the delay could impact witness testimony.
“It makes it more of an unfair trial as time goes on because witnesses will be less accurate in their memories,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com