Cara Rintala jury to begin deliberations with manslaughter conviction possible

  • Defense Attorney David Hoose makes his closing arguments during the murder trial of Cara Rintala in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton, Monday.  DAVE ROBACK/THE REPUBLICAN

  •  – NORTHAMPTON – Defense Attorney David Hoose is seen during closing arguements in Cara Rintala's trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON – Cara Rintala's stepfather Carl Montagna takes the stand during her trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  •  – NORTHAMPTON – State Police trooper Jamie Magarian on the stand with defense attorney David Hoose during the Cara Rintala's trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • —Dave Roback / The RepublicanNORTHAMPTON – Defense attorney Luke Ryan addresses the court on motions before the Cara Rintala trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Dave Roback / The Republican) —Dave Roback / The Republican

  • NORTHAMPTON – Cara Rintala looks over paperwork with defense attorney Luke Ryan in her trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

  • NORTHAMPTON — First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven E. Gagne is seen during closing arguements in Cara Rintala's trial in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. (Dave Roback / The Republican)

@mjmajchrowicz
Published: 10/3/2016 4:46:25 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After more than six years, two mistrials and hundreds of hours of testimony, a jury for the third time is considering a murder accusation against a Granby woman who prosecutors say strangled her wife.

Testimony concluded Monday in the third murder trial of Cara Rintala, and Hampshire Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup then instructed the 16 jurors, nine women and seven men. For the first time in the case, she said the jury is allowed to consider a finding of manslaughter, which would mean less prison time than either a first- or second-degree murder conviction.

Rintala has maintained her innocence since October 2011, when she was indicted by a grand jury and charged with murdering her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala.

Rintala, 49, remains free after posting $150,000 bail in spring 2014.

First responders found a hysterical Rintala cradling her wife’s body, which was bloodied and covered in paint, on March 29, 2010. Prosecutors allege Rintala killed her wife sometime in the afternoon and then left the Granby home they shared to run a series of errands and sent Cochrane Rintala texts and voicemails in order to create an alibi.

When Rintala returned several hours later, prosecutors argue that she poured paint over her wife’s body in order to contaminate physical evidence and conceal her involvement in the crime.

Defense case

David Hoose, Rintala’s attorney, has contended that investigators unfairly targeted her as a suspect immediately after dispatchers and first responders characterized the call to the home that night as a “domestic” incident.

Rintala “wasn’t treated like someone who was a victim in a crime,” Hoose told the jury in his closing argument. “She was treated like someone who was a suspect of a crime.”

Hoose continued, “And that’s fine … (authorities) wouldn’t have been doing their job if they didn’t at least consider her to be a suspect.”

The problem, Hoose added, is that they never seriously considered anyone else. He also stressed to jurors the importance of assessing evidence in the appropriate context.

Hoose said prosecutors “have constructed a house of cards based on three pillars.”

He explained, “They consistently will ask you to take facts out of context, they will ask you to make a series of unwarranted and unfair assumptions and they will ask you to buy into junk science. That’s what this case is based on.”

Alluding to the couple’s tumultuous relationship that was often described in testimony and in police interviews, Hoose noted apparently happier times the women shared together. Those included attending church and counseling or taking their then-2-year-old daughter to visit the Easter Bunny at Randall’s Farm in Ludlow.

Prosecution’s closing

During the prosecution’s closing argument, First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne advised jurors not to be deceived.

“You have, at this point, a full photo album full of happier times from the defendant,” Gagne said. “We have vacations … holidays, birthday parties, anniversaries. The types of events where someone takes out a camera and says ‘smile.’”

And then there were the “bad” times, Gagne said. “The times when no one’s going to take out a camera … the stressors, the fights, the pushing, the shoving, things getting ‘out of control’ as the defendant said herself in an interview that night.”

As she was dying, Gagne said, Cochrane Rintala used what energy she had left “trying to pry her wife’s hands off of her.”

During the trial, the defense conceded that Cochrane Rintala “knew her killer,” although that person was not the defendant.

“Annamarie Rintala knew her killer, you bet your life she did,” Gagne said. “She absolutely knew her killer because she’s sitting right there,” he said, turning to point at Rintala.

Jury’s options

The jury now has four options.

A first-degree murder conviction, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, would result from the jury finding Rintala guilty of killing her wife with premeditation.

Jurors may also consider murder in the second degree, which means Rintala intentionally killed her wife, but not with premeditation. That also carries a sentence of life in prison, but with eligibility for parole.

And Rup explained that the jury could arrive at a voluntary manslaughter conviction if it believes that Rintala was guilty of killing Cochrane Rintala under duress or in the heat of passion. That would carry a sentence of up to 20 years in state prison.

The jury could also decide to acquit Rintala.

The two previous murder trials for Rintala, in 2013 and 2014, resulted in deadlocked juries.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in January that Rintala could be tried a third time, stating that “the evidence against Rintala was sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that she strangled the victim in the basement of their house.”

The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations Tuesday morning, after 12 of the 16 jurors are selected at random to participate. The other four jurors will serve as alternates.

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.


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