Opening statements expected in murder trial for 2012 stabbing of Marine on Barracks Row

Opening statements are scheduled Thursday in D.C. Superior Court in the trial of Michael Poth, a former Marine charged with second-degree murder in a 2012 stabbing of a Marine on Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row.

Poth, 21, is accused of the April 21, 2012, death of Philip M. Bushong. Poth has been incarcerated in D.C. jail since the attack.

At earlier hearings, prosecutors called the attack a hate crime and said Poth hurled a slur against homosexuals at Bushong after he saw him and a friend hugging outside a bar in the 700 block of Eighth Street SE.

Poth’s attorney, Bernie Grimm, declined to comment on the case Wednesday, but at Poth’s preliminary hearing in May 2012, his former attorney, David Benowitz, said his client was protecting himself during an altercation.

Benowitz, who unsuccessfully argued that the charges should be reduced to manslaughter, said a witness told police Bushong and Poth got into a fight and that Bushong called Poth a “boot,” a Marine term used to describe a poor soldier or someone fresh out of boot camp.

Also at the preliminary hearing, a D.C. homicide detective testified that Bushong’s friend is gay and that he and Bushong were socializing when Poth walked past them. The detective said that Poth continued walking, and that a witness heard him say: “I’m going to stab someone and cut their lungs out.”

At the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman announced that military officials had initiated an other-than-honorable discharge of Poth several months before Bushong’s slaying. Poth had tested positive for using synthetic marijuana and had verbally assaulted other soldiers, Liebman said.

Bushong, 23, was a lance corporal in the Marine Color Guard for two years.

Attorneys spent most of Wednesday picking a jury. The case is being heard before Judge Russell F. Canan.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.
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