After murder conviction, Rintala defense team asks judge to consider lighter verdict

  • Cara Rintala’s defense team is asking a judge to reduce her first-degree murder sentence to manslaughter. File photo

  • Cara Rintala’s defense team is asking Judge Mary-Lou Rup, above, to reduce her first-degree murder sentence to manslaughter. GAZETTE File photo

Published: 11/29/2016 12:19:05 AM

SPRINGFIELD — The defense team in the Cara Rintala murder case asked a judge Monday to reduce Rintala’s conviction from first-degree murder to manslaughter.

Monday marked the first time Rintala returned to court since Oct. 12, when Judge Mary-Lou Rup formally imposed the mandatory sentence of life in prison after a jury found her guilty of murder in the 2010 death of her wife.

Although Rintala was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in Hampshire Superior Court, the defense’s motion was heard in Hampden Superior Court because that is where Rup is currently seated.

Although this is not an uncommon action to take following an unfavorable verdict, said Rintala’s attorney David Hoose after the hearing, “I think (the judge) is legitimately interested,” adding that he expects a quick turnaround on Rup’s decision.

A judge has the authority to modify a jury’s verdict, Hoose said.

This verdict, added Carl Montagna, Cara Rintala’s stepfather, is a “travesty of justice.”

“She’s innocent, and we all know it,” he said, standing beside Hoose. “You don’t go from two hung juries to the most serious (verdict).”

Meanwhile, First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne said the defense counsel’s motion wasn’t necessarily a surprising one, considering defendants in such cases have “nothing to lose.”

Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, 37, was found bloodied and strangled to death at the bottom of the basement stairs in March 2010 inside the Granby home she shared with Cara and their young daughter, who was 2 years old at the time. Cochrane Rintala’s body was doused in paint — Cara Rintala’s attempt, prosecutors argued, at concealing her involvement and contaminating physical evidence.

Rintala was tried for the crime twice, in 2013 and 2014, but both trials ended with deadlocked juries. Preceding the October murder conviction, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in January that Rintala could be tried a third time.

During the monthlong trial, citing divorce filings, jealous text messages, heated arguments and multiple instances of police involvement, prosecutors characterized the Rintalas’ relationship as being tumultuous and rooted in dysfunction.

“I don’t think there was any dispute about it that Annamarie did some unfair things,” Hoose said in court Monday. “I think it’s appropriate for the court to look at that relationship … She (Cara Rintala) was someone who tried hard to make the relationship happen.”

He continued:

“This has been a devastating blow for Cara’s family,” Hoose said, adding that her mother can barely stand to come to future hearings because of emotional difficulties.

Gagne argued against the motion Monday and said Cochrane Rintala’s death could not have been the product of a sudden and unbridled act of passion.

“This was not just one split second,” Gagne told the judge. Sure, he said, “in the blink of an eye, someone can do something they’d regret,” but death by strangulation can take anywhere from one to four minutes. This was a killing, he added, that was “deliberate, personal and prolonged.”

Cara Rintala exhibited “no sign of any remorse,” Gagne said. “It is a window into her mindset.”

Following arguments from the attorneys, Rup took the motion, which was filed about a week after the verdict, into consideration and will issue her decision at a later date.

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at

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