Murder Suspect Found Competent To Stand Trial

SNOW HILL – Accused West Ocean City murderer Gregory Stokes is competent to stand trial, according to a psychiatrist for the state, but a request for further evaluation has moved the scheduled court dates in the case back a couple of months.

Stokes is charged with the shooting death of Pamela Balk in her parents’ West Ocean City home on Jan. 11. In March, Stokes’ attorney, Neil Brafman, entered a plea of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity and a psychiatric evaluation was ordered. The doctor who initially evaluated Stokes, Dr. Allan A. Anderson, who examined the suspect on behalf of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of Forensic Services, entered an opinion Stokes is competent to stand trial.

However, the defense attorneys have requested further evaluation of Stokes, which will be conducted at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, Md. The Perkins Hospital is a maximum-security facility, commonly referred to as Maryland’s forensic psychiatric hospital. The hospital receives patients requiring psychiatric evaluation who have been accused of felonies and have raised the not criminally responsible (NCR) defense and/or their competency to stand trial is in question.

According to a letter from Brafman requesting a postponement of Stokes’ current court dates, “under the judge’s mental evaluation order, Dr. Allan Anderson referred the defendant to the Perkins Hospital for an evaluation.” In addition, the letter seeks a postponement of current motions and trial dates, including a motions hearing set for today, May 4, until the evaluation at the Perkins facility is complete.

As a result, the motions hearing set for today, May 4, has been changed to the original date for the start of the trial, June 4, and the start of the trial has been moved back to the second week of August, likely Aug. 7-8. According to court documents, Worcester County State’s Attorney Joel Todd, who is prosecuting the case, does not object to the new schedule for the case.

In the meantime, there has been no ruling one way of the other on the defense’s motion for a change of venue.

According to the letter requesting the change of venue, “the local media coverage of this case has been intense and highly prejudicial.” The change of venue request also suggests “the jury pool of a more remote county will have less significant exposure to the accumulated extrajudicial pretrial publicity.”