WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County senior judge ruled Thursday that a mental infirmity defense request made by the attorneys of a woman charged in a deadly 2008 hit-and-run was filed in timely fashion.
But, the mental infirmity request of Megan Panowicz, of Forty Fort, won’t go to a jury yet.
Defense attorneys still have to address a request by prosecutors to have the defense thrown out because it is “improper” — meaning a scheduled Sept. 23 trial has been postponed until at least December.
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.
Senior Judge Charles Brown ruled Thursday that Panowicz’s attorneys — her father, Robert Panowicz, and Basil Russin — filed the defense in enough time and that he would not preclude Panowicz from presenting the defense out of “fairness and justice.”
Brown scheduled a hearing for Sept. 23 to hear attorneys’ arguments on Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden’s request that the defense is “improper” and not legal at this point in the case.
Brown also continued the Sept. 23 trial date to begin with jury selection on Dec. 3. Brown said the “particular, and unusual, circumstances of the case” led him to his decision.
Panowicz previously had sought to use other defense methods in the case that were thrown out by Brown. There was also an issue involving whether Panowicz would face a misdemeanor or felony charge in the case; the Superior Court ultimately ruled Panowicz would face a felony charge of accidents involving death or personal injury.
The state Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal of the felony charge.
Recently, Panowicz’s attorneys 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.