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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 25, 2005

Brazon's accused killer can now stand trial

Columbus--The man accused of killing drag performer Brazon three years ago is now competent to stand trial.

Michael Jennings, 33, has been institutionalized since the end of 2002, when a judge ruled that he was not competent at that time to be tried.

Dr. Mark Fettman, a psychiatrist at Twin Valley State Hospital, testified that Jennings acknowledged to an employee that he killed Gary McMurtry, 35, who was better known as Brazon.

Jennings� attorneys are talking about an insanity defense for their client. But Christy McCreary, a spokesperson for the Franklin County prosecutor, said that since Jennings ran from the scene of the crime and tried to hide, he was at least sane enough to know that he had broken the law, which could torpedo an insanity defense.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Beverly Pfeiffer is working with attorneys to set a trial date, and hearings are expected to start within a few weeks.

�We will be monitoring his trial closely,� said Chris Cozad, board president of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, which deals with violence against LGBT people. �A BRAVO advocate will be in court every day.�

Police said that Jennings broke into McMurtry�s house before 7 am on May 17, 2002, dressed in black �like a ninja.� Brian Bass, McMurtry�s roommate, tried to stop Jennings, who cut Bass� hand with a 30-inch sword.

Jennings then went upstairs, where McMurtry was.

�His roommate heard screaming, and then the screaming stopped,� Columbus Police spokesperson Sherry Mercurio said at the time.

Jennings was captured a mile away from the house less than two hours later.

He was found not competent to stand trial in December 2002, and Judge Pfeiffer remanded him to Twin Valleys, giving them a year to treat him.

However, treatment was delayed last year when Jennings refused to take anti-psychotic medication. In early April, Pfeiffer ordered Jennings medicated, as doctors had testified that therapy and medication would enable him to be tried.

Jennings faces, among other charges, aggravated murder, and could face the death penalty if convicted.

The gay community�s fears of the murder being a hate crime were quickly allayed when Jennings was arrested. He was an acquaintance of McMurtry, having worked as a dancer in Brazon�s shows.

�Because we have clients who are directly involved in this case,� said Cozad, �we can�t comment on some aspects of the case. We do recognize that the publicity likely around this trial will be very painful and difficult for many in our community.�

�Brazon was known and loved by so many,� she concluded. �We are working on a plan that will include opportunities for community care as well as the court advocacy and media coverage as this unfolds.�


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