FREDERICK COUNTY — Convicted murderer Erika Sifrit is hoping for another day in court after her lawyers filed a motion for appeal in the Frederick County Circuit Court.
Sifrit, who was tried and convicted in 2003 for killing two Ocean City tourists, hopes to reveal to jurors in a new appeal she was a “needy” woman who “lacked the capacity to act as a rational adult” during the murders.
Sifrit and her husband, Benjamin, both originally from Hollidaysburg, Pa., were tried in separate trials. Erika Sifrit received a life sentence plus 20 years incarceration for her role in the killings of Virginia residents Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford, whose dismembered bodies were found in a Delaware landfill in 2002.
The appeal filed this week, however, claims the sentence is “unlawful and unconstitutional and should be vacated for violating her Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.”
The motion goes on to claim that the defense failed to convey in the trial that the Sifrit marriage “clearly did not involve a co-equal, two person team of anything, much less two co-equal criminals.” The document goes on to call Sifrit’s husband, Benjamin a “volatile, manipulative, and psychotic man, who abused her psychologically to the point that she lacked the capacity of a rational adult and became so extremely dependent on him that she would do anything that he requested.”
Both Benjamin and Erika Sifrit have filed motions for appeals since their convictions, the most recent being Benjamin’s appeal in late August of 2008, before his attorneys withdrew it just a week later.
According to the filing, her lawyer Robert Biddle claims that, “trial attorneys never explained to jurors the depth of her mental illness and the effects of the psychiatric drugs (Paxil and Xanax were found on her purse when she was arrested.)”
The motion cites other reasons for a new trial including the lack of “exculpatory” evidence in the first trial, that her defense team wrongly advised her to waive her right to remain silent and take part in a pre-polygraph interview with two Secret Service agents after being taken into custody, but what seems to be the major claim in the appeal concerns Ms. Sifrit’s mental state.
The appeal reads: “Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate Ms. Sifrit’s personal background- most importantly her history of mental illness.” Had the information been obtained, there is a substantial possibility that the outcome of the verdict and/or the sentence would have been affected.”
No date has been set for a hearing as of press time.