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December 26, 2010

Reporter's Notebook: Judge's decision in Hull trial leaves families in suspense


Daily Star

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A 17-year-old girl waiting anxiously in Maine for Supreme Court Justice Michael V. Coccoma's decision on sentencing in the Glenford Hull murder trial might not have gotten what she wanted for Christmas anyway, but when the wheels of justice ground to a halt Dec. 17 her hopes were put on hold until next year.

Callie Hull said she had pinned her hopes on a lighter sentence for her father following his retrial in the death of Chance Caffery. When Glenford Hull was tried the first time the jury found him guilty of second-degree murder.

After he was granted a second trial because of the ineptitude of his first attorney, another jury came back with a verdict of first-degree manslaughter.

Callie has been in constant e-mail, awaiting news of her father's situation.

Caffery's mother, aunt, father and fiancée all showed up in court Dec. 17 for the scheduled sentencing. Some had traveled long distances, and all were ready for an end to the suspense.

Two of the jurors also were in the courtroom to hear the final outcome of the trial, but for one of them, the delay was expected.

Tony Contello served on the jury and has been struggling with his decision to go with a guilty verdict based on his questions about Hull's intent, but what has been bothering him most are the questions in his mind about the role that Facebook postings played in the decision of one or two of his fellow jurors.

What Contello didn't expect was the reason Hull's attorney, Michael Jacobs of Stamford, offered for throwing out the verdict -- he expected questions to be raised once again about those Facebook postings and the responses they elicited from friends and family members of the juror who posted them.

Jacobs never mentioned the Facebook twist and instead decided to submit a motion asking the judge to set aside the verdict because Jacobs contended there was no proof of intent offered during the trial.

Jacobs argued that if the jury didn't find that Hull intended to kill Caffery, then there was no proof that he intended to cause serious injury that resulted in Caffery's death. He said the evidence pointed to Hull recklessly causing Caffery's death, which should have led to a second-degree manslaughter verdict.

Coccoma said he would issue a written decision on Jacobs' motion in two weeks -- on New Year's Eve. The sentencing will be rescheduled following his decision.

A lot of people will spend the holidays waiting and wondering what the final outcome of this convoluted case will be.

Delaware County STOP-DWI Coordinator Lisa Barrows isn't having a very happy holiday season. She was notified Dec. 9 that as of Dec. 31 she would no longer have her position because she wasn't going to be reappointed during the county's reorganizational meeting in January.

As Barrows grappled with the announcement, former county STOP-DWI Coordinator Jason Stanton, who resigned to pursue other interests, found himself being bad-mouthed by several supervisors who seem to have forgotten that several of his anti-drinking and driving campaigns garnered national attention.

Stanton organized a keg roll in April 2002 from Stamford to Albany that resulted in legislation requiring that registration forms be filled out before kegs are sold to try to curb teenage drinking.

Stanton's keg roll got so much national press that it kept right on rolling through 17 more states.

The keg's journey was extended after Stanton, Delaware County Sheriff Thomas Mills, former Deputy Joseph Andreno and former Sidney town Supervisor Joseph Maddalone attended a Texas conference on enforcing underage drinking laws titled "Leading Change for National Priority."

The four men and their keg traveled to Dallas on Sept. 18, 2002, and found themselves in the spotlight when the New York state representative mentioned the Under The Influence Keg Roll.

Stanton said the proposed law would place the liability for supplying kegs of beer to underage drinkers with the person who bought the keg, rather than with the store where it was purchased.

Mills said at the time that the Dallas conference was a great opportunity to share ideas on deterring underage drinking.

Two years ago, Barrows was lauded for taking a program that was broken and making it whole again, but nobody ever made it clear why they thought the program was broken, because during Stanton's tenure Delaware County had the lowest statistics for drunk driving and impaired crashes.

How soon they forget.

Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at stardelhi@stny.rr.com.