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The Telegram
  • Kogut murder case might hinge on psychiatric report

  • With Clayton Whittemore's trial now delayed until March 31 in the death of his 18-year-old girlfriend Alexandra Kogut at SUNY Brockport, will the prosecution's psychiatric expert ultimately agree with the defense?
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  • Ever since Clayton Whittemore killed his 18-year-old girlfriend, Alexandra Kogut, in her college dorm room more than a year ago, prosecutors have argued that the New Hartford man committed a brutal act of murder.
    But while the prosecution's psychiatric expert continues to evaluate 22-year-old Whittemore's mental state, the possibility still exists that what was initially believed to be a murder case could ultimately become one of lesser manslaughter instead, attorneys said.
    The defense psychiatric expert has already concluded that Whittemore was suffering from extreme emotional disturbance when he "snapped" and fatally beat the New Hartford graduate at SUNY College at Brockport on Sept. 29, 2012. So if the prosecution's expert makes the same conclusion, Whittemore's attorneys explained, it would significantly change the direction of the case.
    That's part of the reason Whittemore's looming trial in Rochester was once again delayed this week until March 31. It was initially set to begin Jan. 27, but attorneys agreed that all of the remaining legal questions could not be resolved in less than two weeks.
    "If the prosecution's doctor comes back and also believes it was extreme emotional disturbance, then at that point there probably wouldn't be a trial," said one of Whittemore's Rome-based attorneys, John Leonard, who is assisted by attorney Mark Curley.
    A possible manslaughter charge could then open the door to potential plea negotiations, which would bring a punishment of no more than 25 years in prison. That's far less than the 25-year-to-life sentence Whittemore would face if convicted of second-degree murder.
    But that's all still up in the air at this point, attorneys said. And so is the uncertainty over whether Monroe County Supreme Court Justice Daniel Doyle will suppress certain incriminating statements and evidence from being used against Whittemore at trial.
    It's been eight months since a hearing was held last May to examine whether police had probable cause to arrest Whittemore following Kogut's death, and Judge Doyle still has not rendered his decision on that issue.
    Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley "is still awaiting the decision from the May suppression hearing and the psychiatric evaluation is not yet complete," according to a spokeswoman with the prosecutor's office.
    While this latest postponement means Whittemore's day in court will have to wait longer still, the hurt felt by Kogut's family still persists beyond any courtroom walls.
    "Our grief and deep sorrow continue every day for the loss of our daughter and sister Alex," Kogut's parents, Mark and Becky, and her sister Sydney said in a statement Wednesday.
    "Family, friends and the community continue to support us and have helped to sustain us through this very difficult time," their statement read. "We are, of course, following the judicial deliberations as they progress, and (are) confident that justice will soon be served."
    Page 2 of 2 - Whittemore's attorneys understand the delays are probably frustrating for both families involved. But because this is "a big case for everybody," the attorneys said it's best that nobody rushes into a trial without first seeing how all the legal issues play out.
    "As far as I'm concerned, I'm glad they're taking the time to review everything they need to review and make the right decisions," attorney Leonard said. "Because if both sides don't do the right job, I'm sure nobody wants to see this go on appeal and come back all over again."
    Follow @OD_LaDuca on Twitter or call him at 792-5037.
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