The 21-year-old man accused of murdering gay pre-med student Blaze Bernstein was confused about his own sexual identity, his attorney Edward Munoz said during a court appearance Wednesday in Orange County, Calif., according to the Los Angeles Times.
Samuel Woodward, a former classmate of Bernstein's and a member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, is accused of stabbing Bernstein more than 20 times and burying him in a shallow grave this January while Bernstein was on holiday break from the University of Pennsylvania. Woodward said at the time of the murder that Bernstein attempted to kiss him.
A hate-crime enhancement was added to Woodward's murder charge earlier this month.
Woodward's attorney told the court that his client not only has Asperger's syndrome, which can affect communication, but is confused about his sexuality. This week's court appearance was intended as a preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to move to trial, but consideration of that issue was rescheduled for September 4.
"There's going to be some evidence that comes out to say he's very confused" about "his own identity," Munoz said, according to the Times.
Since the hate-crime enhancement was added to the murder charge, Woodward faces a maximum sentence of life without parole as opposed to 26 years to life maximum if the enhancement had not been added.
"A hate-crime enhancement based on sexual orientation is appropriate due to the evidence developed by looking at Woodward's cell phone, laptop, and social media," Tony Rackauckas, attorney for the prosecution, said earlier this month.
The enhancement was added after Orange County authorities found a large number of texts and images expressing homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic, and antigovernment ideology.
"All of this revealed the dark side of Woodward's thoughts and intentions," Rackauckas said.
Woodward pleaded "not guilty" to murdering Bernstein and is currently in the Orange County Jail with bail set at $5 million. He also denied the hate-crime allegation.