By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y., Dec 20 (Reuters) - A New York appeals court
Thursday ordered a new trial for a woman facing murder and
assault charges, finding that her lawyer should have moved to
suppress statements she made to police during a lengthy
In a 4-1 decision, the Appellate Division, Third Department,
found that Ashley Carnevale's admission that she helped her
husband, Anthony Carnevale, plan to kill two people was "the
crucial evidence" in her case and should have been challenged by
her trial lawyer, David Butler.
The court said that Butler's failure to file a suppression
motion was "inexplicable," particularly because Carnevale
exhibited signs of fatigue and may have been going through
withdrawal from prescription medication during the 2009
interrogation, which lasted for at least seven hours.
"Given the duration, timing and overall circumstances of the
custodial questioning, which involved the use of some deception,
we find that the defense had a colorable basis for moving to
suppress defendant's statements," Justice Edward Spain wrote for
Butler did not return a call seeking comment.
According to the Third Department, Carnevale and her husband
in January 2009 visited the Broome County home of a friend,
Ethan Button, who had sold them the painkiller Vicodin in the
past. Button refused to sell them any Vicodin, and after a
"cordial" conversation the Carnevales left.
A few minutes later, the court said, Anthony Carnevale went
back, claiming his wife had left her purse inside. Carnevale
then shot Button in the back and shot Button's friend, Jean
Clark, several times, killing her, the court said. After a
struggle, Button then shot and injured Carnevale. Upon hearing
the shooting, Ashley Carnevale drove away from Button's home,
the court said.
She was arrested shortly after and interrogated for at least
seven hours, the court said. She signed two statements,
ultimately admitting that she and her husband had planned to
shoot Button and Clark if Button did not sell them Vicodin.
In October 2009 Anthony Carnevale pleaded guilty to murder
and attempted murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life.
During Ashley Carnevale's trial, the Third Department said,
Butler repeatedly alluded to the lengthy interrogation and
"briefly" questioned the voluntariness of Carnevale's statements
but never argued that they were inadmissible. She was convicted
last year of second-degree murder, assault and other crimes and
sentenced to 15 years to life.
The Third Department on Thursday reversed the convictions
and ordered a new trial.
Justices John Lahtinen, Michael Kavanagh and William
McCarthy rounded out the majority panel.
In dissent, Justice Robert Rose said that a suppression
motion would have had "little or no chance of success," and
Butler "should not be criticized for failing to pursue a
potentially futile endeavor."
Butler "was otherwise prepared, presented a plausible
defense and meaningfully participated in the trial," Rose wrote.
Carnevale's appellate attorney, Catherine Barber, and Broome
County Assistant District Attorney Joann Rose Parry also did not
The case is the People v. Ashley Carnevale, New York State
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, No. 104432.
For Carnevale: Catherine Barber.
For the prosecution: Broome County Assistant District
Attorney Joann Rose Parry.
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