- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

READING, Pa. (AP) - A man convicted in the shooting death of his wife six years ago has been granted a new trial.

William Landis Jr. was convicted in Berks County of first-degree murder in the October 2009 slaying of Sharon Landis after an argument in their Spring Township home. The slaying was followed by an eight-hour standoff with police.

Judge Jeffrey Sprecher ruled on Dec. 18 that defense attorneys erred in not calling a forensic psychiatrist who could have testified about the difference between first- and third-degree murder convictions, The Reading Eagle (https://bit.ly/1mhDaD6) reported Thursday.

Dr. Larry Rotenberg said in June that he was prepared to testify that William Landis was legally insane during the standoff with police. He said Landis, who’s 57, told him that he had been heavily intoxicated and under the influence of cocaine and prescription medications that night and contemplating suicide.

The defendant’s trial attorneys, who argued that the 53-year-old wife’s death occurred accidentally during a struggle over the gun, said they thought Rotenberg’s testimony would hinder their ability to get the acquittal they sought.

The judge, however, said they had “everything to gain and nothing to lose” by calling the witness.

“Without this testimony, defendant had no real defense,” he said. “With it, he had a renowned forensic psychiatrist who issued a 25-page report concluding diminished capacity of the defendant to possess the specific intent to kill.”

District Attorney John Adams vowed to appeal the ruling, saying the defendant was just trying to escape his conviction and life sentence.

“He’s desperate for a second bite at the apple, but we believe the jury’s verdict was absolutely on point,” Adams said.


Information from: Reading Eagle, https://www.readingeagle.com/

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