Mary Hall: Disturbed by Rintala case after ‘Dateline’ report

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I was alerted to a June 9 “Dateline NBC” report on the Rintala case by a local pastor who has cared for both Annamarie and Cara. Watching the report online, I was unable to access “Dateline’s” coverage of the ultimate verdict, but I saw enough to have concern over what is happening with our district attorney’s office.

I am remembering what, in his book, “Just Mercy,” attorney Bryan Stevenson describes being up against in Alabama: Where there is a violent death, the community needs some sense that the crime has been addressed, and this requires naming and convicting a culprit. The community wants a resolution of distress and, in the end, it may not matter overmuch to authorities if the real culprit has been found so long as someone is held responsible for the crime.

The prosecutors in the Rintala case spoke candidly to “Dateline” of an insufficiency of the evidence that they had, but this lack of proof seems not to have made them concerned to avoid obtaining a wrongful conviction. They endeavored to establish Cara’s guilt while, perhaps, overlooking considerations that would cast doubt on the justice of this conclusion. For Cara to have strangled her wife for four minutes without becoming grossly distraught and mordantly angry over this at the time is strange; but Annamarie’s family believed that Cara was the killer, and so prosecutors kept trying to win a conviction until they did so.

Annamarie had a complicated life that began in the social environment she came from. Considering this, one would think a competent investigation could have cast a wider net than to look at only three persons of interest in her death. Where Annamarie owed thousands to loved ones who accepted her use of their funds, she might have owed thousands more to other parties whose attitudes would have been less forgiving.

The public has a right to know if such possibilities have been explored.

Mary H. Hall

South Hadley