SJC Ruling Could Overturn Christopher McCowen’s Convictions for Massachusetts Rape and Murder in Slaying of Christa Worthington

The state Supreme Judicial Court will likely issue a ruling in the next few weeks on Christopher McCowen’s appeal to have his Massachusetts murder and rape convictions in the slaying of fashion writer Christa Worthington overturned. McCowen’s criminal defense team is arguing that it was wrong to allow the a substitute pathologist to testify about findings in an autopsy that another doctor had performed and they are now citing a recent SJC ruling that overturned the murder conviction of Eric J. Durand for the fatal beating of Brendon Camara, his girlfriend’s 4-year-old son, on similar grounds.

McCowen was convicted in 2006 for Worthington’s Truro, Massachusetts rape and murder. The 46-year-old Vassar-educated writer and Truro resident was found stabbed to death in her home in January 2002. Her 2 ½ year old daughter was with her, unharmed but hugging her mom’s body and smeared in blood.

In 2005, Police charged McCowen, who was the trash collector for Worthington’s residence, with the slaying. Even though McCowen agreed to let police test his DNA soon after the murder, it would be two years before the authorities would collect his DNA and another year before it was matched to the crime.

A little over a year after McCowen’s 2006 conviction for Massachusetts murder and rape, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary A. Nickerson held a public hearing during which time he interviewed jury members about allegations of racial bias. McCowen is black. The allegations formed the basis for McCowen’s criminal defense lawyer’s request for a new trial, but the judge would go on to turn down the motion. McCowen’s Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys have challenged this ruling.

Cape and Islands prosecutor Julia K. Holler, who represented the state in McCowen’s appeal, says that while it was wrong for a pathologist other than the one that conducted the autopsy to testify in McCowen’s criminal case, because McCowen’s criminal defense lawyer did not object to a criminal trial the state’s highest court has to limit its review to whether the testimony created a “substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice.” This is a higher legal standard than what was applied to Durand’s appeal and one which Holler claims that McCowen’s conviction case does not meet.

SJC ruling hovers over 2002 Cape slaying case,, August 28, 2010
Conviction reversed in Mass. boy’s beating death, Boston Herald, August 20, 2010
SJC hears Christopher McCowen appeal, Cape Cod Online, May 7, 2010
Related Web Resources:
The General Laws of Massachusetts

Murder on the Cape: A tale of love and death,, January 20, 2002
There may be reasons why the charges against you should be dropped or reduced or the verdict against you overturned. It is important that you are represented by an experienced Boston, Massachusetts criminal defense law firm.

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