By Christopher anderson
WASHINGTON – A Potomac woman who was convicted of killing her estranged husband in 1990 has won the right to a retrial, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case Monday.
Over the objections of prosecutors, the Supreme Court let stand several lower court decisions granting a new trial to Lisa Joyce Rubin. A Montgomery County Circuit judge in 1997 granted the new trial on her argument that two of her trial lawyers had a conflict of interest because they removed evidence from the scene of the crime, making themselves criminally liable in the case.
Fred Warren Bennett, who represented Rubin on appeal, said he was not surprised by the high court’s decision.
“We won at the (U.S.) district court level and we won at the Court of Appeals level and we believe they both got it right,” Bennett said.
Montgomery County prosecutors said that while the decision was not what they had hoped for, it was one that they are prepared for. But Deputy State’s Attorney John McCarthy said prosecutors will consider the availability of witnesses in the 12-year-old case and the wishes of the victim’s family in deciding whether to retry the case.
“We’re fully in a position to go back and to retry the case if we have to,” McCarthy said. “We’ve already reached out to the family of the victim in the case.”
He said prosecutors will also have keep in mind how much more time Rubin is likely to serve on a 20-year sentence, 12 years of which she has already served.
Rubin was convicted of murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony for shooting her estranged husband, Tim Warner, in April 1990.
Prosecutors said Rubin lured Warner to a wooded area behind their veterinarian’s office in northern Montgomery County, where she said they would meet to take their ailing dog, Mutley, to be euthanized.
There, according to court documents, Rubin shot Warner at least nine times, hitting him in the head and chest and shooting him five times in the back as he lay on the ground.
In subsequent appeals, Rubin revealed that she had called two of her attorneys, Darrel Longest and David Gavin, to the scene of the shooting. She said they had her admitted to a nearby hospital under an assumed name because she told them she had taken an overdose of drugs.
They also took Rubin’s purse, which was filled with bullets, and a gun from the crime scene, according to court documents.
“Rubin theorized that, because Longest and Gavin were called to the scene of the shooting and took possession of Rubin’s purse, bullets and gun, they became fact witnesses and potentially criminally liable for their actions, thus, they could not thereafter represent her zealously,” court documents said.
On appeal, the state argued that Rubin did receive adequate representation because Gavin and Longest did not represent her at her trial, or participate substantively in the case.
Now that Rubin has been granted a new trial, McCarthy said, her bond status reverts to its pretrial status, which means that she could be eligible to be released on bond. He said he will oppose any motion by Rubin’s attorneys to let her be released on bond before her new trial.
“We had hoped not to have the family . . . have to relive this. It’s a sad day for them,” McCarthy said.