WILKES-BARRE — A judge’s ruling will limit alleged hit-and-run driver Megan Panowicz’s ability to present evidence of her mental condition as defense in the August 2008 death of Sharon Shaughnessy.
Specially presiding Senior Judge Charles Brown issued his opinion and order on Monday. Panowicz faces a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Her jury trial is scheduled for June 16 before Brown.
The state Office of Attorney General is prosecuting the case because Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis had worked with Panowicz’s father, defense attorney Robert Panowicz, prior to her taking office in 2012.
Last year, Brown ruled that Megan Panowicz could not claim she experienced post-traumatic stress disorder after she struck Shaughnessy, who was crossing Wyoming Avenue near Pierce Street in Kingston on Aug. 27, 2008. Panowicz pulled to the side of the road and saw two other vehicles strike Shaughnessy.
In paperwork filed last month in Luzerne County Court, state Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden argued that Panowicz’s attorneys are attempting to show that she ran from the scene because she could do no additional good and went to the police station the next morning to provide proof of financial responsibility.
The prosecution said the issue raised by the defense was intended to delay the trial and should be denied.
Brown’s order seals medical reports filed earlier this year in conjunction with Panowicz’s notice of expert evidence of medical condition.
The judge’s order also states:
• The prosecution’s motion to preclude evidence based on patently untimely defense of medical condition is denied.
• The judge did, however, rule that “evidence of mental condition as set forth in the defendant’s experts’ report may not be offered in evidence in defendant’s case-in-chief.”
• Brown also ruled that Panowicz “may not offer evidence, including experts’ testimony, in her case-in-chief to attempt to establish the defense of justification.”