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Judge: Jury Can Convict NJ Man In UK Tourist Death

MAYS LANDING, N.J. (AP) - There is sufficient evidence for a jury to find a New Jersey man who admitted killing one of Britain's most eligible bachelors guilty of murder or manslaughter, should it choose to do so, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury rejected a defense request to dismiss all charges against Robert Davies of North Wildwood, who claims he acted in self-defense.

Earlier in the case, when he was acting as his own attorney, Davies told the jury he fatally stabbed Lavern Paul Ritch of Penarth, Wales, in the South Jersey beach town of Margate in August 2007. Davies said he feared Ritch was part of a gang out to harm or kill him.

Ritch was once a contestant on the British version of the "American Gladiators" reality TV show and was ranked among England's most eligible bachelors by two publications.

The prosecution rested its case Wednesday, prompting motions from Davies' public defender, Eric Shenkus, to dismiss all charges, including murder and manslaughter.

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

But DeLury disagreed, saying there is ample evidence of purposeful conduct on Davies' part.

"It's a question of fact for the jury," he said, allowing the trial to continue.

The judge also rejected a defense request to dismiss less serious charges, including weapons charges, on the grounds of questionable identification of Davies as the killer - even though the defendant himself told the jury during his opening statement that he had killed Ritch.

Davies has based his entire case on trying to convince 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 Aug. 12, 2007.

Davies had just been punched in the face by a patron of a bar that he and his attacker had visited separately. Davies gave chase through the streets of the summer resort town, past a different bar where Ritch and a few friends were waiting for a taxi. Ritch saw the bloodied Davies running after someone, thought he needed help, and ran up to Davies. That's when he was stabbed through the heart.

A witness testified earlier this week that Ritch held up his hands and said: "Yo, dude. Yo, dude. I'm just trying to help you," before Davies stabbed the tourist.

Wednesday's court session also included the unusual sight of a county prosecutor being called to the witness stand to testify in a trial his office is prosecuting.

Atlantic County prosecutor Ted Housel was called as the prosecution's final witness, discussing his efforts to generate media attention for the case in the hope that someone could identify a man captured in surveillance footage at one of the bars in question. The prosecutor described releasing part of the surveillance tape to reporters in the hope that a viewer would call in and identify the man on the tape.

Davies surrendered to the prosecutor's office four days after the killing.

The defense will begin presenting its case on Monday. Shenkus told the judge it has not yet decided whether Davies will testify on his own behalf.

Ritch appeared as a contestant in the British adaptation of "American Gladiators" in 1998, making it to a quarterfinal round.

He was a swimming and fitness instructor in Cardiff, Wales; was listed in a 2002 poll of Britain's 50 most eligible bachelors by Company magazine; and was named the 12th most eligible man in Wales that same year in a local newspaper.

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