Legal Questions Raised by Slaying of NY Appellate Clerk.
Peter Porco, at age 52, was the principal clerk to Presiding Justice Anthony V. Cardona of the Appellate Division, 3rd Department, in New York. Porco was a career appellate court clerk and devoted student of the law. During the early morning hours of November 15, 2004, Porco was brutally murdered with an ax. His wife was by his side, was similarly attacked, but miraculously survived. Their 22-year-old son is now charged with Porco's murder and with Porco's wife's attempted murder.
The case presents a myriad of complex legal and factual issues that Porco's co-workers say he would have found fascinating. There is evidence that somebody entered the home after cutting telephone wires that operated the burglar alarm. But there is also evidence that the alarm had been deactivated by someone who knew the access code before the alarm's control box was smashed. A garage window screen was cut, but a key the family had hidden was found in the front door lock. The family dog was locked in the basement.
Police who found the crime scene found Porco's wife clinging to life. Certain that she was going to die, they tried to question her to find out what had happened. They asked her if she had been attacked by a family member, and she apparently nodded "yes." When asked if her son was responsible, she apparently again nodded "yes."
Police interrogated the son for more than 6 hours, without counsel, but got nothing. He continuously insisted he was asleep at his college when the attacks occurred. Police were unable to find any physical evidence to conclusively establish that he had been anywhere near the home at the time of the attacks.
The investigation ultimately revealed that the son was heavily in debt, had argued with his father about loan applications, and had allegedly staged burglaries in his home and allegedly burglarized a veterinarian's clinic where he worked, although no charges had ever been filed.
The son was ultimately charged based on the theory that he attacked his parents to get their money. The son apparently stood to inherit at least enough to get himself out of debt.
The case is scheduled to go to trial in June 2006.
Among the legal issues to be resolved include whether the son's right to counsel was violated because a family friend had introduced himself to police and advised them he was the son's attorney prior to the 6 hours of uncounseled interrogation. Also at issue is whether Porco's wife's "nods" to police are admissible as "excited utterances" or "dying declarations." Also at issue will be the admissibility of evidence about the alleged prior burglary stagings. Finally, there will be issues related to two of the detectives who investigated the case having died in recent months.