Jury Takes Up Vaughn Murder Case
Malice at Issue in B-School Student's Trial
A Middlesex County jury will resume deliberations today in the trial of a Harvard Business School student accused of strangling his wife in the couple's Peabody Terrace apartment last summer.
A Keith Vaughn, 27, faces a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the July 23 death of his 22-year-old wife, Princess. Defense attorney Willie J. Davis has argued that Vaughn was depressed because of marital troubles and failing grades before his wife's death.
The five-man and seven-woman jury deliberated for about three hours yesterday without reaching a verdict. They received the case following a psychiatrist's prosecution testimony yesterday that, despite his depression, Vaughn was sane in the moments before his wife's death.
This testimony refutes earlier clams by defense psychiatrists that due to his depressed state the defendant lacked the ability to for mulate any malicious intent.
Vaughn's depression "would not interfere with the capacity to intend one's actions," said Dr. Martin J. Kelly, associate professor of psychiatry at the Medical School.
However, in court yesterday, Davis said Vaughn had found himself in a situation "where life itself is not worth living." He added that the day before the alleged strangling the B-school denied the defendant permission to recnroll for the fall term, and his wife told him she wanted a divorce.
Davis said yesterday that Vaughn had drunk heavily and taken an overdose of sleeping pills shortly after his wife died in an attempt to kill himself. He added that Vaughn was immediately treated at Cambridge City Hospital
The jury may convict Vaughn of second-degree murder, find him guilty of manslaughter (a lesser charge), judge him innocent by reason of insanity, or acquit him. Middlesex Superior Court Judge Robert A Barton instructed the panel yesterday.
Barton added that a conviction of second-degree murder requires the jury to decide that Vaughn maliciously killed his wife Proof of malicious intent is not necessary for a manslaughter conviction.
"There is no evidence of malice," argued Davis. "The evidence shows just what the law permits human frailty."
Prosecutor Thomas Reilly, First Assistant District Attorney, called the alleged murder "methodical," adding that Vaughn's "own mind caused his hands to go around her neck."
Vaughn blamed his wife when he "flunked out" from the B-School, said Reilly, adding that the defendant would have had to wait two years for an opportunity to be readmitted "Those two years were more important to him than his wife's life," Reilly said.
But Davis said that before Princess Vaughn's death her husband was only trying to detain her so that the two of them could "talk" about their marriage.
He added that the chief medical examiner for the Commonwealth, Dr. Brian Blackbourne, had testified that there was no sign that the couple had struggled Vaughn's wife did not believe that he would hurt her, Davis said.
The jurors, who were sequestered last night, are scheduled to return to the Middlesex County Courthouse this morning for a second day of deliberations. The trial began last Friday.