Jury Deliberations Begin in Michael Poth Murder Trial

Jurors began deliberating Friday on a second-degree murder case charging an ex-Marine with stabbing a brother-in-arms on Barracks Row in Southeast DC in April 2012.

The defendant, Michael Poth, 21, was discharged after being arrested on suspicion of murder in the stabbing death of 23-year-old Philip Bushong.

During a week-long trial, Poth’s defense attorney, Bernard Grimm, argued that Poth was the victim of an assault by two bigger men and that he stabbed Bushong in self defense. But prosecutors said that Poth instigated the altercation and that the stabbing was a premeditated attack.

Police found Bushong April 21, 2012 around 2:40 a.m. in front of a sporting goods store on the 700 block of 8th Street Southeast. He was suffering from an apparent stab wound and later died. Poth was arrested that same day and charged with Bushong’s death.

Nishith Pandya, Bushong’s friend of three years, testified at trial that he was with Bushong bar hopping the night Bushong was killed. Late that night, Bushong and two other Marines were expelled from Molly Malone’s, a bar and restaurant across the street from the Marine Barracks, for being rowdy.

Pandya said that he accompanied Bushong outside and that the two were talking about Bushong’s plans following his retirement from the Marines, when Poth approached them. He was smoking a cigarette and he kicked over a restaurant sign, Pandya said.

Testifying Tuesday, Pandya said Poth yelled a homophobic slur out toward him and Bushong. Bushong responded, yelling back, ‘What the f– did you just say?’ or, ‘shut the f– up,’” Pandya said.

During trial Cpl. Chris Johnson testified that while on duty guarding the Barracks he saw the fight between Poth and Bushong escalate.

I’m going to stab you,” Johnson said Poth yelled.

Pandya testified that Poth called Bushong a “boot,” military slang for an inexperienced officer, and, minutes later, stabbed him in the chest.

An autopsy concluded that Bushong died from a stab wound to the left side of his chest; the weapon had damaged the root of his aorta.

Poth’s attorney, though, argued that the stabbing was in self defense. In closing arguments Friday, Grimm told jurors Friday that Poth was the victim, and that he was pursued before the stabbing by both Pandya and Bushong.

A video clip shown in court Friday captures Poth at the crime scene tripping into view, then turning around to look back at Bushong, then walking off. Prosecutors claim at this point in the video, Bushong has already been stabbed.

But during trial Grimm argued that as the video clip continues, Bushong is seen entering the camera’s view and walking toward the direction Poth walked to off camera.

Grimm told jurors Friday that this is when Bushong attacks Poth, causing Poth to stab him in defense.

There is no evidence that shows [Poth’s] conduct to be premeditated,” Grimm said, urging jurors to find Poth innocent. “Don’t follow a tragedy with another tragedy.”

Deliberations in the case began at 2 p.m. Friday and are expected to resume Monday.

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