A Manassas man charged with capital murder in the death of his infant son remains without an attorney to defend him after a court hearing Tuesday that was scheduled to decide the matter.
Joaquin S. Rams, 41, has been accused of drowning his 15 1/2-month-old son, Prince McLeod Rams. Authorities say Rams took out more than $500,000 in life insurance on his son before his death. Prince was the subject of a custody dispute and died during a court-ordered visit with his father.
Rams’s attorney has said that the boy was ill and that Rams rushed him to the bathtub and splashed water on him to quell a fever-induced seizure.
In most cases, Virginia courts appoint the regional Capital Defender’s Office to represent defendants who could face the death penalty and cannot afford to hire a lawyer. But on Tuesday, Northern Virginia capital defender Edward Ungvarsky said that his office could not take the case.
Ungvarsky had told Prince William Circuit Court Judge Craig D. Johnston last month that his office was available for the case. He told Johnston on Tuesday that it would have been a “push” for his office to take the case, given its current workload, and that it would be better for another attorney to be appointed.
“We simply can’t do it,” Ungvarsky said. Rams said in a motion he was not comfortable with Ungvarsky’s office, and that he would prefer that Fairfax attorneys Mark Petrovich and Thomas Walsh be appointed. He wrote that meetings with the capital defender’s office were “negative.”
“I have no faith in the Capital Defenders Office’s ability to handle my defense,” he wrote. Ungvarsky declined to comment after the hearing.
Petrovich, who has represented D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, told the judge that his firm would be “honored” to take the case. “We consider it a pinnacle of the profession,” he said.
Johnston said that while Rams is free to hire his own attorney, he cannot choose who is appointed to serve in his defense. Still, he said that Petrovich and Walsh had the requirements necessary to serve in the case and he would consider them. He delayed their appointment, however, to find out whether other capital-qualified attorneys were available.
Rams also asked in his motion that his former attorney, Timothy Olmstead, a former Prince William prosecutor, be appointed in the case. That appears unlikely, as he is not on a list of attorneys qualified to serve in capital murder cases, which can carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Johnston scheduled a hearing for Monday to decide the issue.