tv News Channel 3 News at 530 CBS February 17, 2016 5:30pm-6:00pm EST
(crk) docket number 4-8-2-1-5. people v. leon wayne vorgitch. charges are eight counts of murder in the first degree; escape in the first degree; and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. how does the defendant plead, mister... kiss my ass. that's how i plead. control your client, counselor. i'll do my best, your honor. he pleads not guilty.
for mass murder, bail's not an issue. but which cell he's returned to is, your honor. the defendant obtained the tools for his escape while incarcerated at green haven. people ask that corrections place him in a federal supermax facility pending trial. mr. edlund? no objection, your honor. so ordered. [gavel pounds] you can lock me up wherever you want, bitch! we're done. get him out of here. lock me up wherever you want, 'cause that's all you can do! and next time i get out, i'm coming straight for you, bitch! get your hands off me. murder t murder two on all eight charges. (vorgitch) go to hell, mccoy. murder one, two, three. what the hell's that even mean? i want something real. tv time. conjugal visits. (mccoy) we're not here to offeperks, mr. vorgitch. want one of them flat screens. that's my price.
we'll leave it. fine. but every day i get that bus and go to court is another day i don't have to spend in here. another chance to escape. megan died before we reached the hospital. it's been, uh, very hard on all of us. especiallyince vorgitch should've been executed years ago. and that's what makes it not just a personal tragedy for the purcell family, but a moral outrage for all of new york. we have to fight for the families of the victims. we need the death penalty. and when i'm elected, i will fight to bring it back. thank you ladies and gentlemen. come on. (reporter) wait-- didn't take dena carter long to make political hay. while she's out campaigning for the death penalty, what are we supposed to do without it? either we decline to prosecute vorgitch or we waste three months on a murder trial with nothing at stake.
two cops and four children. we owe the families. what we owe them is vorgitch getting an arm fulof poison. not an option right now. are we sure about that? people v. la valle, arthur. that case didn't strike down the entire law; just the jury instruction. there's still a guy on death row whose judge gave a constitutional instruction. that case will be tied up in appeals until the defendant dies of old age. but if we can get our judge to give that same instruction, then we've got a shot at getting vorgitch on death row. at least then we've done everything we can do. the legislature's not gonna do anything. i appreciate your ambition, mr. mccoy, but in light of the higher court's ruling, i don't see how i can authorize a death penalty case. given the public outrage surrounding this case, your honor, i don't see how you can refuse. the people get no justice from a trial that delivers no real punishment. so how do you plan to get around la valle? what if yoissue
one that addresses the court's bias concerns? you want me to rewrite new york's death penalty statute? just the jury instruction, yo honor, and a template already exists. judge stephen fisher's instruction in the john taylor case. judge fisher's rewrite happened before the death penalty was struck down. the court in la valle declined to craft new instruction. he's right, mr. mccoy. and fixing all this is the job of the legislature. they haven't been terribly responsive, have they? the statute's been in limbo for two years. no judge has the power to ignore the law, your honor. you wouldn't be ignoring it. you'd actually be eying it. how's that? la valle states that you can't issue the old deadlock instruction because it's biased. and although the court declined to rewrite it, there's nothing to stop you trying. this is an issue that needs to be resolved, your honor. if the legislature won't do it, it's on us. you seek the death sentence,
your honor-- i don't expect you to beappy, mr. edlund. i expect you to appeal. [gavel pounds] filed the papers this morning. get ready for round two. a trial judge clearly does not have the authority to issue her own private jury instrtion in a death penalty case. she's not imposing it, counselor. she's merely allowing the prosecution to seek it. but judge desmond is ignoring the deadlock instruction required by statute and crafting her own. she can't break the law in order to fix it. but the law was already broken. precisely, your honor. the status of the law is uncertain. the people are simply asking if new york has the death penalty or not. and the answer is no. not under the current statute. now opposing counsel has exceeded his authority. the power to answer that question lies with the courts. it's called judicial review. this is judicial activism. watch yourself, counselor. the manhattan d.a. and judge desmond
despite la valle, capital punishment is still valid in this state. and what's the point of having the death penalty if we're afraid to use it on a man like leon vorgitch? it is the opinion of this court that whenever possible, the autonomy and authority of trial judges must be upheld. however, death is different. a statute this important must be repaired by a majority vote of the legislature, not some clever band-aid from a judge. the defense's article 78 motion is granted. judge desmond did exceed her authority. you may not seek the death penalty, mr. mccoy. [pounds gavel] (mccoy) i'll try to finish you out in a day, but you've got a lot of heavy lifting.
well, i'm here for whatever you need. wish i had an option. mr. purcell, it's connie rubirosa again. please call me back regarding your testimony. [gunfire] stay here. (man) gunfire! shot fired! (cop) drop the weapon. put the gun down, man. (man) 10-13. (green) down. i don't wanna have to hurt you. put the gun down now. (cop) hands behind your he. up against the wall. homicide. i got him.
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because new york doesn't have a do-it-yourself death penalty, mr. purcl. i don't care what the law says. that's hardly a defense. the stress of client losing his daughter and watching vorgitch go unpunished has clearly rendered him unable to tell the difference between right and wrong. this is our notice of intent to plead not guilty by reason of mental defect. moral ambiguity does not equal an insanity defense, ms. carter. my client believes that shooting leon vorgitch was the right thing to do. and if you agree, why are you chargingim? and if not, that's a valid defense. [chuckling] it's just a platform to nullify. they'll hear vorgitch murdered purcell's diabetic little girl, and the law goes out the window. jurors aren't the only ones who find his story sympathetic. can't we just concede the insanity and get him time in an institution? carter won't hear it.
yeah, you can't walk in front of the courthouse without seeing her in front of the cameras. and meanwhile, dr. olivet examined purcell. she says he knew right from wrong at the time of the shooting. you get a second opinion? and a third. they all say the same thing. well, purcell doesn't deserve 20 to life. but he doesn't deser a walk either. if we can't make a deal with carter, maybe we can make a deal with the jury. (mccoy) the people ask that the jury be allowed to consider man two as a lesser included defense. they can't make a case for murder, and now they want a safety net. it's unacceptable, your honor. the safety net is for your client, ms. carter. he doesn't need one. there is more than enough evidence to prove murder two. but in light of the mitigating circumstances, the jury should have the option to give the defendant three to six instead of 20 to life. they should have to make a choice. convict a grieving father of ridding the world of a dangerous mass murderer,
it is all or nothing, your honor. and you've discussed this with your client, ms. carter? absolutely. (judge gordon) well, then i don't see much choice here. there's ample precedent supporting the defendant's right to take his chances. the jury may not consider man two. it's murder two or an acquittal. i'd like another meeting with your client. to discuss what? the fact that he's not getting the best advice from his lawyer. i'm used to mudslinging on the campaign trail, but, jack, i expected better of you. you're playing politics with your client's defense. you are way off base. how many scandals are chasing your campaign? all part of the game. you're down in the polls. defending purcell is a publici stunt and you know it. then drop the charges and deny me the bully pulpit. otherwise, i'll see you in court. (rubirosa) maybe we should dismiss the murder charge and go after purcell for manslaughter instead.
he shot a man in cold blood on the courthouse steps. we have no choice but to charge him with murder. even though we're practically begging him to let us plead him out to manslaughter? yes. isn't that hypocritical? i prefer to call it ironic. the whole thing's a little convenient, don't you think? what? purcell killing vorgitch a month before the election. dena carter catching the case. what about it? she's either very lucky or-- you think dena's involved? all i'm saying is i wouldn't be shocked if there was more puppet-mastering going on behind the scenes than we know about. you have any proof? no. then leave it alone. and put all of my energy into burying purcell for doing exactly what every man in this city wished he had the balls to do? yes. (carter) so when did you begin treating the defendant, dr. burnett?
his daughter's death. and what were his symptoms at that time? depression, post-traumatic stress. he was just outside the school when his daughter was murdered. he was contending with profound feelings of powerlessness and loss. so at that time, did you believe robert to be in danger to himself or to others? no. we were able to manage his condition with medication and talk therapy. he was making good progress. so what happened? he was informed that leon vorgitch would be escaping the death penalty for a second te. i believe that information caused him to suffer a psychotic break. meaning? he lost the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. so in your professional opinion, robert's mental breakdown was caused not by the death of his dauter, but by the state's failure to act? withdrawn. when i heard they were gonna let him live, i snapped.
i dug it up, loaded it. i got to the courthouse just as vorgitch's van pulled up. he got out. we locked eyes. i shot him. rob, did you believe that you were committing a crime? this wasn't murder. it was justice. i didn't do it because he stole from me or because he cut me off in traffic. i didn't even do it because he killed my daughter. (carter) then why'd you do it, rob? because he was just too dangerous. if he had lived, i have no doubt he would've killed again. so you took action to prevent that from happening. if the police couldn't, or the courts, somebody had to do something. do you believe what you did was wrong? 12 jurors voted for the death penalty three times. even the district attorney tried to make it happen.
the will of the people. mr. purcell, do you understand why you are in court here today? objection, your honor. this is a trial, not a competency hearing. mr. purcell has asserted an insanity defense. the people have the right to probe his understanding of his situation. the witness will answer. i'm here because i shot leon vorgitch. do you believe yourself to be an agent of the state? someone legally allowed to carry out executions? no. so you understand that shooting vorgitch was a crime. i--i know it was illegal, but i don't think it was a crime. murder is not a crime? so there was nothing criminal about what vorgitch did to your daughter?
he fired a gun. you fired a gun. what was the difference? my daughter was innocent. and that's why you shot him. because he murdered your innocent daughter. no. you shot him because it was the will of the people. that's right. you fired three hollow-point bullets into the chest of the man who murdered your daughter, and you weren't even thinking about her? tell the truth, mr. purcell. was this justice or was it revenge? you think i wanted to kill a man? i have nightmares about this. you have nightmares about it? yes. so you do know that what you did was wrong. just because it was the most difficult thing i've had to do
leon vorgitch deserved to die. but you people wouldn't do it. so i did. he is dead. that is all that matters. who cares what i was thinking? carter says her client is still not willing to consider a deal. not when his lawyer tells him he'll walk. he may have a chance. i understand you beat him up pretty good on the stand. i'd call it a draw. or is it wishful thinking? he shouldn't be in that courtroom. he should be waiting out three years somewhere. you're plumbing the depths of political cynicism, jack, my boy. sadly, it's a deep well. [knocking]
just as leon pulled up. but remanded defendants always arrive at 6:00 am. vorgitch got there at 9:00. his schedule was changed last minute to ensure security. someone tipped him off. i assume you're not here to make a campaign contribution. did yotell robert purcell what time leon vorgitch would be arriving at the courthouse the morning of the shooting? i beg your pardon? did you know purcell was planning to shoot leon vorgitch? of course not. convince me. go to hell. i know who you talked to at corrections. you were informed of vorgitch's changed transportation. any conversations between my client and myself are privileged. and if purcell had told me that he had planned on killing vorgitch, i'm not obligated to report it. is the seat in albany really worth 20 years of a grieving father's life? come on, jack. i didn't do anything wrong. if i had and you could prove it, we'd both be in front of a judge right now, wouldn't we?
is protecting the people of new york from monsters like vorgitch. and protecting heroes like robert purcell from heartless prosecutors like yourself. nine years ago, leon vorgitch heartlessly murdered five innocent people at a restaurant. back then, the legislature had a chance to make sure that it never happened again, but they failed. they failed and he escaped. and he went on to kill eight more innocent people. and once again, the state has failed to act. 13 innocent people slaughtered and our leaders are powerless to do anything but lock him up and hope he never escapes again? ladies and gentlemen, the law did not protect
it couldn't even grant justice to the families of his victims. and when robert purcell heard that, after hearing the shot that killed his daughter... he went insane. regaless of the law, regardless of the risks, regardless of the countless witnesses, robert purcell felt compelled to make sure that leon vorgitch never killed again. ladies and gentlemen, the state wouldn't take action, so robert did. now does that make him a murderer? that makes him a man mentally undone. first by a heartless psychopath, and second, by an uncaring system. ladies and gentlemen, that deserves your sympathy.
vorgitch was a monster. no one disputes that the world is a better place without him. but this is not about who robert purcell murdered. it's about the simple fact that he is a murderer. mr. purcell is not insane. he does not believe himself to be a judge, a jury, or an executioner. and yet, by killing leon vorgitch, he chose to act as all three. he may have felt morally justified. but still, he knew that what he did was wrong. so the question before you is not, "did vorgitch deserve to die?" it's, "did robert purcell have the right to kill him?" and the answer is no. leon vorgitch was a danger to our society.
they want you to look the other way. even though robert purcell ignored our system of justice, took the law into his own hands, and committed murder in cold blood, they want you to give him a pass. if you let robert purcell get away with murder, just because you hate the man he shot, you're tling everyone out there that it's okay to kill as long as the victim was a bad person. judges, juries-- who needs them? if you want to see insanity... let this murderer go. has the jury reached a verdict? we have, your honor. (judge gordon) what say you? on the sole count of the indictment murder in the cond degree,
(male announcer)in the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups-- the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. these are their stories. mr. dillon! mr. dillon! can you confirm that halligan-webb was eavesdropping on its own employees? how about members of the press? no comment. is samantha weaver gonna resign her position as ceo? why don't you ask her? please, let me through. please, let me through. look, i have nothing to say! can you give any comment? any statement that-- [reporters shouting] hands tied around the bedpost. one shot, close range, side of the head.
some time between 8:00 and 11:00 last night. name's charles dillon, livingston, new jersey. he's got a wedding ring. if there was any cash in here, it's gone now. so what is this, like a sex romp gone bad? if it was, it went bad prettyast. there's no fluids on his underwear or the sheets. thanks. hi, detectives cassady and green. adrienne harding. was mr. dillon staying here? he wasn't supposed to be. who has access to this suite? um, anyone from halligan-webb's executive offices could get a key. and does that include mr. dillon? he was our general counsel. what can you tell us about him? i didn't know him personally. just what i read in papers. he was in the news? you must've heard about the eavesdropping scandal in my company. yeah, halligan-webb bigwigs spying on their employees. it's a huge federal investigation now, and mr. dillon is in the middle of it.