Murder trial begins for model who tried using ‘gay panic' defense

Posted: June 21, 2012

RAYMOND ARMSTRONG, who once made a living as a model for big-name clients including Kenneth Cole and Target, was in a Philadelphia courtroom Wednesday for the start of his murder trial.

Armstrong, 35, is charged with the Sept. 27, 2008, strangulation of Anthony Williams, 37, a longtime friend who often let Armstrong stay at his Grays Ferry home.

The slaying allegedly took place inside that Wilder Street home shortly before 10:30 p.m. during a struggle so violent that neighbors heard the commotion from the street.

In pretrial hearings last year, the judge refused Armstrong's attorneys' argument to be allowed to use what is known as "gay panic" as a defense. Although not supported by scientific research, the gay-panic defense holds that an unwanted homosexual romantic or sexual advance is responsible for a defendant going into a psychotic state and responding with violence.

Although the Common Pleas jury won't hear the term "gay panic," Armstrong still could testify in his own behalf that he killed Williams while trying to fend off an unwanted sexual assault.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Levenberg told the jury Wednesday that Armstong's strangulation of Williams was first-degree murder — meaning he had the premeditated, specific intent to kill.

Moments after the slaying, he said, a naked Armstrong emerged from the house, fell in the middle of the street and told neighbors that he had killed Williams, who worked at a West Philly Toyota dealership and ran his own modeling-and-photography business.

Armstrong told police that he was waiting for them and that he let Williams live and he identified himself as "Adam, son of God," the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney Todd Edward Henry told the jury that his client is innocent of the lone murder charge he faces. "If you killed somebody, don't you run away?" he asked the jury of six women and six men. "The evidence doesn't show any of that."

He acknowledged that there was a struggle in the house that began upstairs and ended at the bottom of the stairs, where paramedics found Williams' body. Henry told the jurors that the state recognizes justification or self-defense as a defense in a murder trial. He said Armstrong was "innocent" and the facts would show that he did not have premeditation or the specific intent to kill Williams, nor did he act with malice. n

Contact Mensah M. Dean at 215-568-8278 or deanm@philly.com.

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