Deadlocked jury produces Cara Lee Rintala case mistrial
03/13/13-Northampton-Staff photo by Dave Roback-From the Wednesday session of the Cara Rintala trial which was a mistrial. Here is Judge Mary-Lou Rupp announcing a mistrial. Purchase photo reprints »
Robin Whitney, a Massachusetts State Police detective, First Assistant Northestern District Attorney Steven Gagne and Assistant Nortwestern District Attorney Jennifer Suhl hold a press conference after the jury deadlocked in the Cara Rintala murder trial. Purchase photo reprints »
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Defense attorney David Hoose, left, and First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne listen to Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rupp after jurors revealed they could not reach a verdict in the Cara Rintala murder trial.. Purchase photo reprints »
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Defense attorney David Hoose watches the jury come in to the courtroom after 25 hours of deliberations. Purchase photo reprints »
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Cara Rintala in court Wednesday, the day jurors informed the judge they could not reach a verdict. Purchase photo reprints »
03/13/13-Northampton-Staff photo by Dave Roback-From the Wednesday session of the Cara Rintala trial which was a mistrial. Here is steven gagne during a press conference after the trial. Purchase photo reprints »
Steven Gagne, first district attorney and Jennifer Suhl, assistant district attorney in the Rintala miss trial press conference. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — Minutes after a judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the murder trial of Cara Lee Rintala, prosecutors vowed to bring the case back to a courtroom.
“We are ready, willing and able to retry this case,” First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne said in court following Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup’s declaration of a mistrial.
Rup made that decision after jurors informed her about 3 p.m. that after 25 hours of deliberating, they were deadlocked. They said they were certain there was no path to a unanimous verdict for acquittal or conviction. The legal concept of “double jeopardy,” which prevents people from being tried for the same crime more than once, does not apply because the jury did not reach a decision on guilt or innocence.
Cara Rintala, 46, formerly of Granby, pleaded not guilty to the strangulation death of her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, in the couple’s Barton Street home on March 29, 2010.
After the mistrial was declared, Rintala’s attorney David Hoose of Northampton argued that bail be set at $50,000 cash, so she could spend time with her daughter and family in Rhode Island while awaiting retrial. Rintala has been held without bail since a hearing following her arraignment in October 2011 on the murder charge.
Hoose said during the 19 months between Annamarie Rintala’s death and Cara Rintala’s arraignment, investigators knew where she was. He said she presented no flight risk then and would not now if she is released on bail.
Hoose said that if her residing out of state was a concern, she would be willing to move back to Massachusetts to comply with whatever release conditions the court puts in place.
“She spent 19 months living a perfectly crime-free existence and made no attempt to flee,” Hoose said.
Hoose said bail should be considered because it could be another 18 months before the case is retried if he remains as defense counsel, due to his schedule, including representing accused arsonist Anthony Baye beginning in May and a federal case that begins in September and will likely last through the rest of the year.
Even if another attorney takes over, he said, it would probably take at least six months to prepare.
Cara Rintala moved from Granby to Rhode Island about six months after her wife was killed so as to be closer to her parents, Hoose said.
Rup said Wednesday she believes $50,000 would be an inadequate amount to ensure Cara Rintala’s continued appearances in court and she did not agree with Hoose that a defendant who lives out of state is not a flight risk.
She set a hearing to discuss the setting of new bail for Cara Rintala for 2 p.m. Monday in Franklin Superior Court in Greenfield, where Rup will be presiding.
At a brief press conference later, Gagne said he was disappointed in the mistrial, but looks forward to retrying the case.
Gagne said he had no idea what the sticking points were for the jury, nor how large the split was among disagreeing jurors. “Only the jury knows,” he said.
In a telephone interview Wednesday night, Hoose said, “The result was disappointing for everybody — everybody wants to see a case like this resolved.”
He also said he knew the case would boil down to the issue of reasonable doubt.
“In my view, there was ample reasonable doubt, and it’s a little frustrating that the jury didn’t see it that way,” he said.
Gagne said the DA’s office is ready to proceed with a new trial, but said finding a date would depend, in part, on whether Hoose will remain as defense counsel and what his schedule would allow.
He said the state hasn’t changed its position on bail. Considering the charge and the potential for a life sentence without parole if convicted, Gagne said he will argue for Cara Rintala to remain held without bail until her new trial.
Gagne said the district attorney’s office and Annamarie Rintala’s family plan to pursue the case until there is a resolution.
“We’re doing this for Annamarie,” Gagne said. “As many trials as it takes.”
Jurors sent a message to Rup earlier Wednesday telling her that after two votes, they could not reach a unanimous decision.
Rup advised the seven male and five female jurors that they should not assume 12 other people would do any better at reaching a unanimous verdict than they would before sending them back to continue deliberations.
The jury deliberated during five days beginning March 7 before declaring itself deadlocked.
Prosecutors allege that Cara Rintala killed her wife after a tumultuous relationship that included dueling divorce and restraining order filings, debt approaching $100,000 and arguments over custody of the couple’s 2½-year-old daughter in the event of a split.
Hoose characterized the case against his client as circumstantial, marred by shoddy investigative work and a presumption of Cara Rintala’s guilt from the start.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.