Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

A LAWRENCE JURY DELIBERATES ON THE MURDER TRIAL OF JEROME MCNULTY…AGAIN

The juries in the Mattapan Massacre and Rutgers cyber-bullying/hate crime trials are deliberating, they are not the only ones. The wheels of Justice grind on…for better or for worse…every day. In Lawrence Superior Court, for example,another jury deliberates.

The jury is the second to hear this case. It is the retrial of former Lynn gentleman Jerome McNulty, 34, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). The Defendant is charged with stabbing his girlfriend to death outside her Salem apartment 11 years ago. The girlfriend, Linda Correisa, 27, suffered some 15 stab wounds to her neck, back and arms in the March 29, 2001 incident. Her 10-year-old daughter and 20-year-old baby sitter were also stabbed.

At the first trial, the Defendant was found guilty and, since, his criminal appeal was successful. The murder conviction relating to Ms. Correisa was overturned.

At the first trial, in 2004, the Defendant testified in his own behalf. He asserted that Ms. Correia came at him with a “butterfly” knife while they were arguing over another woman he was dating. He claimed that he then went into a dissociative state brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of a difficult childhood.

At the 2012 trial, the defense lawyer portrayed the Defendant as a man set upon by a series of women with knives (similar to a previous statement the Defendant had made). The prosecutor argued that the Defendant was cold and “indifferent” to Ms. Correia’s suffering as she begged for help, unable to breathe and bleeding from 15 stab wounds.
She also told the jury that the extent of Ms. Correia’s injuries shows that this was not a case of self-defense but of murder in the first degree, both through extreme atrocity or cruelty and premeditation.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Self-Defense And Prior Testimony

The previous conviction was overturned due to actions attributed to the police officer involved. The Defendant’s lawyer had called the police station where he was being held and left word to tell the Defendant not to make any statements. The officers failed to pass this message on and took the Defendant’s statement anyway. The prosecution, naturally accepting whatever the police gave it, used the statements.

Hence, a successful criminal appeal and a new trial.

We have discussed the defense of self-defense before. The law states that it is ok to defend yourself so long as you use only the same level of force as your attacker. In other words, if someone is running at you with a butter-knife, you can use such a knife to defend yourself. You cannot pull a bazooka out of your back pocket and blow that person, and half the room, away.

At least in the first trial, it seems as if the Defendant was trying to use two defenses at the same time. First of all, it was self-defense. Second, there was some kind of diminished capacity…the so-called insanity plea.

Usually, using what lawyers call “alternative pleading” is a bad idea in front of a jury…particularly in a criminal case. Because the issue really is whether the prosecution can prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense is really free to use several defenses if it wants to. In civil cases, when a matter is tried in front of a judge, this is done all the time.

Juries tend not to be too sympathetic to defenses like “I wasn’t there so I did not do it and, even if I did, it was in self-defense”. That’s a nice way to get a quick conviction.

In this case, it would seem that the two defenses would not necessarily be incompatible. However, it is a dangerous way to go.

It does not seem as if the Defendant testified at this latest trial. There may be a number of reasons for this. One of those reasons is that if he said anything that was inconsistent with his testimony at the last trial, he could be confronted with that inconsistency on cross-examination.

If a defendant is going to look like a liar on the stand, he or she should go nowhere near that stand.

“Why, Sam? Just because he appears to be lying on the stand does not mean he is guilty of whatever charges he is facing.”

True. But that kind of logic only seems to work for the government when using cooperating witnesses as described in my tirade in yesterday’s Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog. When a Defendant takes the stand, he puts his credibility into issue like every other witness. Further, there is the automatic argument by the prosecution that he has the most motive to exonerate himself on the stand.

Simply put, being seen as a liar on the witness stand is usually suicide in terms of the verdict.

For the original stories upon which today’s blog are based, please go to http://www.salemnews.com/local/x1284935320/Witness-McNulty-claimed-he-was-jumped and http://m.salemnews.com/TSN/db_271069/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=oChGZUO1&full=true#display

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