Judge grants defense access to evidence in murder trial of Cara Lee Rintala



Last modified: Friday, October 25, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — A judge has ruled that the state must share with the defense evidence in the upcoming murder trial of Cara Lee Rintala. However, Hampshire Superior Court Judge Bertha D. Josephson did not specify how that trace evidence, which includes animal hairs found on Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, should be given to the defense team. Rintala, 47, who is accused of strangling Annamarie Cochrane Rintala in their home in Granby in 2010, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder and is being held without bail awaiting trial.In her ruling Friday, Josephson wrote that the prosecution must make some evidence available for the defense expert to “view, document and photograph” at either the state lab or at the district attorney’s office, and then must “provide animal hairs from these items” to the defense expert “to scientifically examine and analyze at the defense expert’s facility.”She ruled that the evidence must be returned to the state in “the same condition as that in which they were received.”Cara Rintala’s first trial in March ended with a deadlocked jury. A new trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 7.Last week, Cara Rintala’s attorney, David Hoose of Northampton, argued that an expert witness who needed to closely examine some of the evidence in the case was unwilling to transport expensive and sensitive equipment from Long Island to Northampton to study the evidence locally.Hoose objected to a state proposal to have the animal hairs removed from evidence and shipped for examination, saying, “I am not comfortable with them now going through the exhibits and pulling out what they think my guy should look at.”First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne told Josephson that his office was willing to provide space to have the evidence examined, but the state crime lab in Maynard does not allow outside examination of its evidence and Gagne said he was reluctant to have the evidence removed from physical control of prosecutors. Gagne said in a telephone interview Monday that once the animal hairs are documented and separated from the rest of the evidence, he is comfortable shipping them or having the expert transport them to his New York lab himself.“Given the material we’re dealing with here is, by all accounts, animal hair, we’re comfortable sending them,” Gagne said.Gagne said he considered having a representative from his office accompany the evidence, but did not believe it was “worth the resources to do so.”At Cara Rintala’s first trial, forensic scientist Caroline Tatro testified several hairs found in both of Annamarie Rintala’s hands and on her chin were animal fibers, likely from a cat. There was no evidence a cat lived in the couple’s home, according to Tatro.Hoose suggested at trial that sometime before her death Annamarie Rintala was around a cat or in the company of a person who had been around a cat. Hoose during the trial criticized the state’s investigation as zeroing in on Cara Rintala at the expense of other suspects and theories. Bob Dunn can be reached at <a id="17bcinsbeb:u17bcinsbff" href="#">bdunn@gazettenet.com</a>.


 


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