Closed hearing sought in Cara Lee Rintala murder case
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO The lawyer representing accused murderer Cara Lee Rintala filed a motion Thursday seeking to have next week's pretrial hearing closed to the public. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton lawyer representing Cara Lee Rintala in her upcoming murder trial wants next week’s pre-trial hearing closed to the public, saying publicity could corrupt the jury pool.
David Hoose on Thursday filed the motion to close the hearing in Hampshire Superior Court.
Rintala, 46, formerly of Granby, is accused of strangling and beating her wife, 37-year-old Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, to death in the couple’s Barton Street home March 29, 2010.
In the motion, Hoose claims the widespread media attention that has already surrounded the case is likely to continue at Tuesday’s hearing.
That hearing will determine what evidence can be presented at Rintala’s trial. Hoose said that giving the press and public access to information that the court may decide should not be heard by a jury may unfairly prejudice prospective jurors.
“There is a substantial probability that Ms. Rintala’s right to a fair trial ... will be jeopardized by public dissemination of the evidence that the court may ultimately rule should not be heard by the jury,” Hoose wrote.
Jury selection is expected to begin on Feb. 11.
“Given the fact the hearing ... will be held just a week before jury selection begins, there is tremendous potential for contamination of the jury pool,” Hoose wrote.
Hoose argued short of closing the hearing altogether it is “inevitable” that evidence that may not reach the jury will be highlighted in local and national media.
Hoose cited case law to support his assertions that the right of the public to attend court proceedings is not absolute, and that adverse publicity can affect a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
In the motion, Hoose argues that allegations of domestic violence between Rintala and her wife will likely be discussed during the hearing. He included copies of several newspaper and Internet articles containing allegations of domestic violence between the couple.
Hoose also objected in his motion to some media outlets characterizing the case as “the first lesbian marriage murder case,” saying this unfairly presumes his client’s guilt.
First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne said by telephone Thursday his office plans to oppose Hoose’s motion.
Gagne said publicity does not automatically mean a proper jury cannot be found, even in high-profile cases.
A copy of that opposition motion was not immediately available.
Judge Mary-Lou Rup is expected to rule on the motions Tuesday before the hearing.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org