The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that Edwin Alemany got a fair trial and will spend the rest of his life in prison for stabbing and strangling Amy Lord to death in Stony Brook Reservation - and for attacking two other women - in 2013.
According to the court's summary of the case, around 4:20 a.m. on July 13, Alemany punched a woman unconscious and then dragged her into parking lot, where she revived and managed to escape. At 5:38 a.m., he was standing in a building vestibule when Amy Lord went to leave her building, only he attacked her, forced her into her own vehicle and made her stop at several ATMs, where she withdrew a total of $960 from her account. He then made her drive to Hyde Park and into the Stony Brook Reservation, where they got out and he stabbed her 40 times and strangled her, leaving her naked body on a path in the woods there.
Alemany used the money to pay off some bills, to buy a new phone and some liquor - and for a livery car to take him to a friend's house in Roslindale, where he spent the day drinking, after which the friend drove Alemany to his girlfriend's house in South Boston - where the two argued, Alemany left and then attacked a third woman, stabbing her repeatedly in her left arm, chest and face. She managed to kick him, which made him fall over and then run away; she crawled up to her apartment, where her roommates called 911. She was taken to the hospital - where one of the roommates noticed a man yelling about not getting treated for his own stab wound - it turned out to be Alemany, who had sliced his hand open during the attack on the woman.
He was arrested in the ER, initially charged just for the attack on that woman, but evidence - including blood on his sneakers, which matched Lord's - soon pointed detectives to his responsibility for Lord's murder.
Alemany's lawyer argued Alemany was innocent by reason of insanity; based on an analysis by now former psychiatrist Keith Ablow, but the jury disagreed.
In its ruling today, the state's highest court said it found no reason to overturn Alemany's 2015 verdict or to grant him the new trial he wants, that despite an error by the judge in instructions to the jury, prosecutors still proved, as required, that Alemany was either able to tell right from wrong or, if he wasn't, it was because he was drunk at the time, which is not enough for an insanity defense.
The court dismissed other legal objections, saying that whatever mistakes prosecutors and the judge made were minor enough to have not affected the verdict, or were not really errors to begin with, such as the prosecutor using the phrase "horror story" for what Alemany was charged with;
Describing the alleged crimes as part of a "horror story" did not rise past the level of excusable hyperbole. See Commonwealth v. Lyons, 426 Mass. 466, 472 (1998) ("grisly" depiction of victim's murder not improper). The evidence presented at trial was that the defendant brutally attacked three women, killing one, in the span of twenty hours. Cruz was attacked while walking to work; Lord was abducted as she was about to leave her apartment for an exercise class, robbed, taken to a secluded park, and stabbed more than forty times; and Ballantyne was attacked while walking home from work. While certainly dramatic, the statement was rooted in the evidence ultimately presented at trial, and the jury would have been able to sort out any hyperbole.
The court also rejected Alemany's claim, raised in arguments by his appeals lawyer, that he never wanted to plead guilty by reason of insanity, that he was innocent, but did so only after his lawyers said they would quit his case if he wanted to pursue a simple not-guilty verdict - a violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. But, the court said:
According to the affidavit, Denner and Hubbard [his trial lawyers] told appellate counsel that the defendant never objected to the insanity defense. To the contrary, the defendant agreed with them that the insanity defense was his best available option considering the evidence in the case.
An affidavit submitted by the appeals lawyer said one of the trial lawyers acknowledged he'd never told Alemany that by going the insanity route, he would be admitting he actually did kill Lord, but the court said the lower-court judge who initially rejected the request for a new trial on Sixth Amendment grounds "was within her discretion to discredit the defendant's affidavit as self-serving."
The defendant had numerous opportunities before and during the trial when he could have raised his concerns with defense counsel or the judge. For example, the defendant provided notice of an insanity defense one year before trial and was interviewed by his expert. In addition, the issue of a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity thoroughly and repeatedly was pursued during the jury selection process in the defendant's presence. The defense attorney stated in his opening that the defense was based on mental illness, not that the defendant did not commit the attacks. During the trial, defense counsel attempted to elicit information from Commonwealth witnesses that would strengthen his defense of not guilty by reason of insanity, and Ablow and Kelly [the prosecution's psychiatrist] testified extensively regarding his mental health. Notwithstanding the defendant's claim in his affidavit that had he known that he was conceding that he was the perpetrator he would have objected in open court, the defendant remained silent on numerous occasions when the defense strategy was abundantly clear.