Lavern Ritch judge rules jury 'can convict' on murder

image captionLavern Ritch was on holiday in Atlantic City, New Jersey

There is enough evidence for a jury to find guilty an American man accused of killing a fitness instructor from south Wales in 2007, a judge has ruled.

Robert Davies, 49, is on trial for the murder of Lavern Ritch, 37, who was on holiday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Judge Bernard DeLury rejected a defence request to dismiss all charges against Mr Davies, who claims he acted in self-defence against Penarth-born Mr Ritch.

Mr Delury said there was ample evidence should the jury choose to convict.

Earlier in the case, before telling the judge that he no longer wished to conduct his own defence in court, Mr Davies told the jury he fatally stabbed Mr Ritch in the US beach town of Margate in August 2007.

He said he feared Mr Ritch, a fitness instructor, was part of a gang out to harm or kill him.

Eric Shenkus, appointed to defend Mr Davies, asked the judge to dismiss all charges, including murder and manslaughter.

Mr Shenkus told the judge the murder charge "requires a purposeful, knowing mental state" and that "the proofs the state has offered would not allow a reasonable jury to come to such a conclusion."

But Mr DeLury disagreed and allowed the trial to continue, saying: "It's a question of fact for the jury."

The judge also rejected a defence request to dismiss less serious charges, including weapons charges, on the grounds of questionable identification of Mr Davies as the killer.

'Trying to help'

Mr Davies had earlier told the jury that he reasonably feared for his life when Ritch ran up to him on a Margate street in the early morning hours of 12 August, 2007.

Mr Davies had just been punched in the face by a customer in a bar that he and his attacker had visited separately.

He gave chase through the streets of the summer resort town, past a different bar where Mr Ritch and some friends were waiting for a taxi.

Mr Ritch saw the bloodied Mr Davies running after someone, thought he needed help, ran up to him and was stabbed through the heart.

The jury heard earlier this week that Mr Ritch held up his hands and said: "I'm just trying to help you" before Mr Davies stabbed the tourist.

The defence is expected to begin presenting its case on Monday.

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