Wednesday, December 16, 2009
COA Affirms Murder Conviction for LaCalamita
Yesterday, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the first degree, premeditated murder conviction of Anthony LaCalamita, III, in a short, 4-page per curiam opinion signed by Judges Pat Donofrio, David Sawyer and Donald Owens. As many may recall, LaCalamita was charged with murder as the result of a shooting spree in the Troy offices of Gordon Advisors. See, LaCalamita Sentenced to Life in Prison. The firm's receptionist, Madeline Kafoury, died as the result of gunshot wound to the chest. LaCalamita had been fired from his position with the company four days prior to the shooting.
On appeal, the Court rejected the defendant's claim that the verdicts of guilty on each of the multiple counts was against the great weight of the evidence. The defense claimed the evidence presented at trial clearly established that LaCalamita was legally insane at the time the crime was committed. The Court, however, reasoned that a verdict is against the great weight if the evidence preponderates so heavily against the verdict that it would be a miscarriage of justice to allow the verdict to stand. Simply because testimony may be inconsistent or contradictory, "even when impeached to some extent, is an insufficient ground for granting a new trial.”
At trial, the defense presented Dr. Norman Miller who opined that defendant was in a manic and delusional state at the time of the incident and believed that he was involved in a battle of good and evil. The prosecution countered with two experts, Dr. Carol Holden and Dr. Charles Clark, who concluded that LaCalamita, at worst, suffered from a personality disorder that did not rise to the level of a "mental illness" as defined by MCL 330.1400(g). A defendant is legally insane if he suffers from a mental illness and, as a result, lacks a “substantial capacity either to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his or her conduct or conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law.” MCL 768.21a(1). A mental illness is “a substantial disorder of thought or mood that significantly
impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to cope with the ordinary demands of life.” MCL 330.1400(g). Posed with two opposing opinions regarding LaCalamita's mental status at the time of the crime, the jury was free to choose who to believe. The trial court, the Honorable Rudy Nichols, did not err in denying the defendant's motion for a new trial on the basis that the verdict was against the great weight of the evidence.
The trial court had also denied the defendant's request for surrebuttal closing argument (claiming he had the burden of establishing the insanity defense by a preponderance of the evidence). The COA found that MCR 6.414(G) gave no such right to the defense, even when the defendant had a burden, and, therefore, Judge Nichols did not abuse his discretion in denying the motion. Marilyn Day handled the matter for the prosecution, and the defense was represented by Royal Oak attorney, Peter Ellenson.