Judge denies bond in 2012 murder case still awaiting trial

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2016 9:07 PM

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — A judge Wednesday denied bond to a Virginia man charged with capital murder in the 2012 death of his 1-year-old son even though he will have spent four years in jail awaiting trial.

Also at Wednesday's court hearing, prosecutors in the case against Joaquin Shadow Rams also said they stand "ready, willing and able" to charge Rams with the murders of two other people — his mother and his ex-girlfriend — in separate incidents stretching back to 2003.

Rams, of Manassas, has been jailed in solitary confinement since his 2013 arrest in the death of his son Prince, who was 15 months old when he died on an unsupervised visit with Rams. It was only the fourth unsupervised visit he had had with his son. The boy's mother, Hera McLeod, had opposed unsupervised visits, fearing for her son's safety.

Joaquin Rams stood to collect on more than $500,000 in life insurance policies he had taken out on his son's life.

Defense attorneys asked a Prince William County judge Wednesday to release Rams on home confinement. They questioned the strength of the government's case and said it's unfair Rams has been jailed awaiting a trial that won't begin until 2017.

But Judge Craig Johnston rejected the bond request, saying the trial was scheduled to begin earlier this year but was delayed at the defense's request.

Defense lawyer Christopher Leibig argued that the government's case is not as strong as initially thought because the original finding by a medical examiner that Prince's death was a drowning has since been overruled, and his cause of death is now listed as undetermined.

"The strength of the Commonwealth's case has changed significantly since a grand jury indicted Mr. Rams," Leibig wrote in a court motion seeking bond. Rams told police he gave his son a cold bath in an attempt to stop a fever-induced seizure.

But prosecutor Teresa Polinske said the case remains strong. She said the original medical examiner stands by her ruling, and other outside experts hired by prosecutors agree.

She also noted that Rams has extra incentive to flee now that he knows he could face the death penalty for Prince's death and that he could also be indicted for the 2008 death of Joaquin Rams' mother, Alma Collins, and the 2003 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Shawn K. Mason.

Indeed, prosecutors brought murder charges against Rams in Mason's death but withdrew them because they want to bring Prince's death to trial first, Polinske said. And while Collins' death was ruled a suicide by a medical examiner, Polinske said Wednesday that "further investigation has called that finding into question," and that she may have been suffocated.

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This story corrects the judge's last name to Johnston and corrects the attribution in the last paragraph to Polinske.