WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County senior judge said Wednesday he would decide within 24 hours whether defense attorneys in the 2008 case of a deadly hit-and-run incident will be able to use a mental infirmity defense.
Senior Judge Charles Brown, at a hearing Wednesday morning, said he would make the ruling soon so that the case can go forward. A trial is scheduled to begin for Megan Panowicz, of Forty Fort, on Sept. 23.
Panowicz, 28, is charged in the August 2008 death of Sharon Shaughnessy, who was killed on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston when she was reportedly struck by three vehicles.
Recently, Panowicz’s attorneys — her father, Robert Panowicz, and Basil Russin — filed court papers notifying Brown they intend to use a mental infirmity defense in the case. Panowicz has a “longstanding disorder,” a post-traumatic stress disorder, that causes her to avoid stressful situations by “attempting to over self control,” they say.
“The events which caused her to have post-traumatic stress rendered her incapable of appreciating the significance or consequences of her behavior and affected her ability to determine what was right or wrong at that crucial moment,” the attorneys wrote.
Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden, who is prosecuting the case, said the filing should have been done earlier and is not relevant at this juncture. Madden also has asked that prosecutors be permitted to have an expert examine Panowicz, a request that is on hold until Brown makes a ruling.