A woman charged with killing her wife will stand trial on September 2023, as the first-of-its-kind murder case in Massachusetts involving a married lesbian couple nears a fourth jury trial in eight years.
A Massachusetts judge late last week announced that Cara Rintala, 54, will be allowed to live in Rhode Island as she prepares for the next trial while remaining on bail that was granted in November of last year.
The defendant has been tried three times for the the murder of her then-wife, 37-year-old Annamarie Cochrane-Rintala, who was found at the bottom of their basement staircase, bloody and beaten, cold to the touch and covered in paint, as first responders described the scene.
A medical examiner determined that Cochrane-Rintala had been strangled to death. Also found at the bottom of that staircase by authorities was Rintala herself, cradling her deceased spouse, similarly awash in white paint that has proven pivotal in the lengthy criminal prosecution over the death first reported on March 29, 2010.
Over a year later, on Oct. 19, 2011, the defendant was indicted for her wife’s murder. Rintala has consistently maintained her innocence.
Each of her first two trials, held in 2013 and 2014, ended with hung juries and mistrials were declared in Hampshire County. The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office was able to secure a first degree murder conviction and concomitant life sentence on the third go-round but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court tossed that conviction and sentence as summer drew to a close in 2021.
The judges on the Bay State’s highest court said the prosecution’s lone-and-eventual successful effort against Rintala’s liberty relied on expert testimony about paint that wasn’t really so expert after all.
The third fumble in as many tries was because Deputy DA Jennifer Suhl and her team called to the stand David Guilianelli, whom the court described as “a quality engineer at the company that manufactured the paint found at the crime scene” to opine on paint-related issues. During his testimony, he told jurors, in the court’s words that “the paint found at the crime scene was poured deliberately and not spilled and that the paint was poured no more than four hours before photographs were taken of the crime scene just after 9 p.m.”
The court found Guilianelli’s testimony was erroneous because, to the extent it was based on anything more than his own opinion, it mainly relied on a small number of non-scientific experiments. In those six experiments, the would-be expert compared paint drying times on standard paint industry charts under a few different conditions.
Flaws abounded with this approach. The court explained:
Guilianelli testified that he had never done an experiment like this before, nor had anyone in his company. He had never testified about paint drying in any court proceeding and was not aware of any other instance of such testimony. He also did not do any research on the topic or search for any academic or industry materials on this topic. Rather than flowing naturally from his work, therefore, his experiments greatly differed from the work he ordinarily performed and the observations he had experience making, and his opinions were developed solely to assist the Commonwealth’s prosecution of the defendant.
Guilianelli’s experiments also did not take into account the surface upon which the paint was found, a dead body and concrete, as opposed to a sealed chart. He also did not account and control for the disturbances in the paint caused by the defendant and first responders. To the extent he considered temperature and humidity, he was dependent on the accuracy of the readings at the crime scene, which were not verified.
This time, the prosecution will be helmed by Northwestern First Assistant District Attorney Steven E. Gagne. The defendant is currently represented by Boston-based attorneys Chauncy Wood and Rosemary Scapicchio.
Wood told Law&Crime the defense would not be making any comments or releasing any kind of a statement.
“Murder cases are the most serious cases this office handles,” First Assistant DA Steven Gagne said after the fourth trial was scheduled last Friday, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “We believe very strongly in our case and we are committed to obtaining justice for the victim and her family.”
The defendant is currently living with her elderly parents and teenage daughter in the Plantation State. She was released on $50,000 cash bail or a $500,000 personal surety by Hampshire Superior Court Judge Richard Carey without objection from the state. Rintala’s legal team posted the cash bail immediately after that hearing.
[image via screengrab/WWLP]
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