- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A man convicted and sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing of a University of Arkansas student asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to grant him a new trial on grounds that his lawyer abandoned a mental illness defense late in the trial.

Zachariah Scott Marcyniuk was convicted in the 2007 slaying of Katie Wood, 24, of Greenbrier, whom he stabbed 50 times.

His attorney, Lee Short, told the high court that experts for both the prosecution and defense found that Marcyniuk, 35, had a borderline personality disorder, suffered from depression and had a psychological disturbance when he killed Wood.

While Short said there was no question that Marcyniuk killed Wood, he told the justices that Marcyniuk’s lawyer at trial had urged jurors to agree on a verdict of second-degree murder, a lesser charge than capital murder.

“You just told the jury that your experts are full of crap,” Short said of that argument.

Marcyniuk was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2008. The high court should order a new trial because the trial lawyer conceded guilt, thus negating Marcyniuk’s right to plead not guilty, Short said.

“The line here is you can’t concede a viable defense,” Short said.

Assistant Attorney General Valerie Fortner responded that it is routine for a lawyer to argue for conviction on a lesser charge, and she said the jury instructions included a mental illness option.

“His goal was to save his client’s life,” Fortner said of Marcyniuk’s lawyer at trial.

Fortner said Marcyniuk planned the crime, breaking into Wood’s Fayetteville apartment and stealing her phone. He was on her computer until she got home, Fortner said.

After the killing, he hid Wood’s body and covered up blood stains before jumping out a back window. Fortner said Marcyniuk “was casually eating McDonalds” when an officer pulled him over.

Wood’s body, covered with stab wounds, was found in the bathtub of her Fayetteville apartment.

The Supreme Court in 2010 agreed with Marcyniuk’s conviction and death sentence in a separate appeal. The court found there was ample evidence for a jury to believe he acted deliberately and the killing was premeditated. Marcyniuk was allowed to pursue another appeal over how he was represented at trial.

The court will issue its ruling later.

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