Judge denies convicted murderer Cara Rintala’s motion for ‘Dateline NBC’ footage

  • Defense attorney Luke Ryan stands next to Cara Rintala as she reacts after being found guilty of first-degree murder in Hampshire Superior Court on Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. —GAZETTE STAFF / CAROL LOLLIS

  • Cara Rintala, center, enters the courtroom for sentencing Oct. 12, 2017, along with a court officer, left, and co-defense counsel Luke Ryan in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton. Rintala was found guilty of first-degree murder of her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala. SARAH CROSBY/Gazette Staff —GAZETTE STAFF / SARAH CROSBY

Published: 12/8/2017 1:31:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A Hampshire Superior Court judge denied a motion Wednesday that sought unaired footage from NBC Universal of interviews with six jurors in Cara Rintala’s third murder trial.

Rintala’s attorney, Chauncey B. Wood, filed the motion in July 2017 in an effort to have the court compel NBC Universal to release unaired footage from the Dateline NBC episode “At the Bottom of the Stairs,” which was based on Rintala’s trial. The episode first aired on June 9, 2017.

Rintala was convicted in October 2016 of first-degree murder for the March 2010 strangulation death of her wife, Annamarie Cochrane Rintala, 37. The jury of five women and seven men deliberated for about 27 hours before returning a verdict. In Massachusetts, a first-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. The conviction is automatically appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court. No documents have been filed in that appeal. Two trials in 2013 and 2014, ended with deadlocked juries.

“It is evident from the Dateline episode that jurors placed substantial weight on issues likely to be significant in the defendant’s appeal,” Wood wrote in an affidavit. “Additionally, the statements contained within these recordings may reveal evidence of improper or extraneous influences upon the jury.”

Wood cited as one example the weight the jurors seemed to give to an expert witness who testified about the paint spilled around Annamarie Cochrane Rintala’s body.

Judge Mary-Lou Rup ruled Cara Rintala did not provide any information that the portions of the interviews that aired on Dateline revealed evidence of “extraneous influence” or that the unaired portions would have any evidence to warrant a new trial either.

“Notwithstanding the defendant’s contention, the suggestion that the jurors disclosed any extraneous influences during their interviews is speculative,” Rup wrote. “The claim is based solely upon the existence of prior media coverage and the mere possibility, unsubstantiated by specific allegations that homophobic bias may have existed despite the juror voir dire process.”

In denying the motion, Rup wrote that Rintala and her attorney had not shown there was a reasonable likelihood that they would uncover new evidence in the footage that would result in a new trial.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.
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