The drifter accused of killing a popular priest last year was drunk and defending himself against sexual assault, his attorney argued yesterday.
“He was provoked by a man who wanted to take advantage of him sexually,” assistant public defender Brian D. Shefferman said. “That, ladies and gentlemen, is not murder.”
The opening statement came yesterday after nine men and seven women were seated on the jury. Lucas, 26, is being tried on charges of stabbing to death Monsignor Thomas Martin Wells, 56, on June 8 in the rectory of Mother Seton Parish church in Germantown.
It was the first outright statement of Lucas defense. Previous indications were that forensic psychiatrists might testify that he was mentally incapable of forming intent to murder. Lucas — a tree trimmer with previous convictions for drunken driving, theft and drug possession — is on trial for burglary, robbery with a deadly and dangerous weapon, and murder.
Montgomery County Deputy States Attorney Katherine Winfree said Lucas knew what he was doing after a night of drinking at “lingerie night” at the Magic Cue, which was “within a stones throw of the parish.”
“He robbed Monsignor Wells,” Mrs. Winfree said, referring to more than $800, religious coin mementos and Monsignor Wells watch, which she said Lucas flaunted for nine days before his arrest.
“He stabbed and killed him,” Mrs. Winfree said, adding that a blood-stain expert will testify that Monsignor Wells died a violent death, and that there was “blood everywhere” in his second-floor bedroom.
“The evidence in this case establishes to an absolute and scientific certainty that Robert Lucas robbed, burglarized and murdered” Monsignor Wells, Mrs. Winfree said.
After the slaying, the killer went to a downstairs office, rifled through a safe and desk drawers and left an obscene note on a bulletin board.
Mr. Shefferman displayed the sign to the jury after describing how Lucas earlier that night had drunk 10 beers, urinated in his pants and passed out in a grove of trees after leaving Magic Cue.
Lucas walked to the church, thinking he might get cleaned up in a restroom there, then went to the rectory. Mr. Shefferman said a man wearing only underclothes came out on the deck and invited him up.
“The man” gave Lucas a beer and began talking to him, Mr. Shefferman said. “Bobby finds hes baring his soul to this man hes never met.”
Among confessions, Mr. Shefferman said, Lucas told the man about his girlfriends. “Bobby says ‘no when the man asks if he ever thought of having relations with a man,” Mr. Shefferman said.
Mr. Shefferman said that when Lucas knelt to pray, the man made sexual advances toward him and exposed himself.
“Bobbys furious,” Mr. Shefferman said. A struggle began, during which Lucas pulled out a folding knife he always carried for his work as a tree-trimmer and sometime auto mechanic.
“[Lucas] is not thinking. Hes just reacting,” Mr. Shefferman said. “He has no idea how many times hes stabbed him. Its awful. Its a nightmare.”
States Attorney Douglas F. Gansler decided not to seek the death penalty if Lucas is convicted because parish members, family and friends of Monsignor Wells oppose the death penalty, as did the priest.