FORT EDWARD — The lawyer for a Ticonderoga teenager who is charged with murder for allegedly killing his 15-year-old friend with a machete said Thursday the defense may pursue a defense that “extreme emotional disturbance” played a part in the fatal confrontation.
Adrian J. Sawyer, 16, accused of second-degree murder and second-degree arson for the July 26 death of Maverick Bowman in a home in Putnam Station, pleaded not guilty Thursday to a two-count indictment, and Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan sent him to the county jail without bail.
In arguing against bail being set, Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said his office anticipated a defense of “extreme emotional disturbance” based on discussions with defense counsel, and he said that Sawyer had run away from home weeks before the killing and seems to have a “real risk of harming himself.”
Defense lawyer Marc Zuckerman asked for bail, and said that his client’s family could post bond and Sawyer would agree to house arrest or electronic monitoring. He had not run away earlier this year, but instead went to Vermont and returned voluntarily, Zuckerman explained.
“I don’t think there is anything in his background that indicates he is a flight risk,” Zuckerman said.
Sawyer spoke slowly and quietly in court, answering the judge’s questions about his pedigree and acknowledging his rights but not addressing the court otherwise.
After the hearing, Zuckerman said that his client’s “state of mind” at the time of the incident will be a large factor in the case, and the defense planned to consult a forensic psychologist. He said Sawyer was a young 16, having just had his birthday weeks before the killing.
“We’re exploring every option,” he said. “There are a lot of things in this case we just don’t know right now.”
A defense of extreme emotional disturbance is that the defendant was not considered “insane,” but that he was overcome with “extreme emotion” for some reason that led to the crime. If successful, it would result in a guilty verdict for manslaughter instead of murder.
Sawyer was believed to have been using drugs and alcohol in the hours and days before the homicide, as the county Route 2 home where Bowman was killed had become a party spot for teens. It was abandoned, and owned by Bowman’s grandmother.
Authorities have not said what led up to the killing, only that Bowman’s neck was cut with a machete. But Jordan said in court on Thursday that Bowman was “unarmed and defenseless” when he was attacked.
“I suspect in this case we may never get an answer for that,” Jordan said when asked about a motive.
Friends of Bowman’s family said Sawyer was upset about a dispute over a girl. Police went to the Putnam home after Sawyer made comments to family members that made them suspect he harmed Bowman.
Sawyer did not give a formal statement to police the day of his arrest, as lawyer Julie Garcia — who is working with Zuckerman — was quickly retained by his family after Sawyer was taken into custody and informed police that he was not to be questioned, Zuckerman said.
Groups of relatives of both Sawyer and Bowman attended the arraignment, a good friend of Bowman’s, Freddy Muhlberger, speaking about his buddy afterward.
He said he wanted Sawyer to spend the rest of his life in prison, and wants him to understand how many people were hurt.
“It’s affected a lot of people. Everyone liked him. He never did anyone wrong,” he said of Bowman.
He said only Sawyer knows what happened that day.
“We’re not 100 percent sure about anything,” he said.
McKeighan adjourned the case until Nov. 16.
Sawyer could face up to 50-years-to-life in prison if convicted of both charges and sentenced to consecutive prison terms.
Under state law, those 16 and over are prosecuted as adults, though the law will change in October to have 16-year-olds prosecuted as juveniles for less serious offenses.