The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Friday, August 25, 2006


The Appellate Division has overturned Christine Wilhelm's murder conviction and has ordered a new trial. In 2002, Wilhelm drowned her four year-old son, Luke. The Assistant District Attorney that prosecuted the case was.........Patricia "Second Time's a Charm" DeAngelis. Apparently, she screwed up again. Judge McGrath also erred in his ruling.

The reversal hinged upon the testimony of two Child Protective Services witnesses. The two CPS workers testified to admissions made by Wilhelm during the course of interviews for the CPS investigation. However, the District Attorneys Office failed to give notice pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law 710.30 that they intended to offer the admissions at the time of trial. That's the crux of the problem. There are more complicated issues involved and the decision can be read here (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

Perhaps someone versed in criminal law can tell us whether or not notification of intent to use the admissions (pursuant to CPL 710.30) would have cured the problem. If so, why didn't DA's office do that? Better safe than sorry, after all.

The last paragraph of the decision is interesting. The Court does not reach the issue of (what else?) 'prosecutorial misconduct' but does state that comments made during the prosecutor's summation were within the 'broad latitude' allowed prosecutors when responding to a defense summation. That's not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that while they say they need not address the issue of prosecutorial misconduct because a new trial is ordered on other grounds, they go on to caution the District Attorney. In fact, they provide a laundry list of what a prosecutor is forbidden to do in summation, concluding: "We caution the People to abide by these well-settled principles upon retrial."

We hope this puts the end to anyone's belief that Ms. DeAngelis is a good prosecutor and a good courtroom attorney. That's not to say she's a poor one, either. With a 95% conviction rate, our District Attorneys Office stands toe-to-toe with just about every other DA's office, with the exception of the Bronx and Erie County. Everybody has a high conviction rate. It's just not a big deal. To say that the office has a 95% conviction rate is like a professional ball player bragging about hitting .280. In this day and age, you had better hit .280 just to keep your job.

Mike McDermott prosecuted the Porco case in a calm, cool, systematic manner. He allowed the evidence to be the star of the case, not himself. Passion is well and good but DeAngelis' hysterics have given defendants to many second chances. That's not what got her in the end here but the Appellate Division sure did talk about misconduct even though the issue did not have to be discussed.

Maybe Mike can return to Rensselaer County and take up his old job with the DA's office. They could use someone like him.

Judge Jacon drew a roadmap for anyone that wants to run against DeAngelis in '07. Her opponent would be wise to use that map. Put on the defensive, DeAngelis was thrown off her game and never recovered. That can be done again and the Wilhelm case can now be added to the list of her screw-ups.

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