Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Rise and Fall of Thomas Capano

Capano's Defense

Thomas Capano being escorted.
Thomas Capano being escorted.

Oteri had never before let a murder defendant testify, but his overly controlling client had browbeaten him long enough.  He gave in.

The prosecution team eagerly awaited their prey.

Capano took the stand on December 16, 1998, swearing to tell the truth.  He immediately launched into a rambling personal history, probably as a way to win the jury's sympathy, although he wisely avoided describing how privileged he was.

About the cooler, he said he purchased that as a gift for Gerry, who'd done some nice things for his daughters.  If he'd had murder in mind, he'd hardly have paid with a credit card.

He took the opportunity to launch into an attack against his brother, and from that point, his need to verbally thrash everyone connected to the case became almost an obsession.  The next day, he'd invariably apologize.

Capano went on to describe how open-minded he was about sexual matters, talking in such candid detail that even the cops blushed. Yet it was when he described his actions afterward that he lost the jury.

He pretty much denied everything that had been said about him and turned the stories back around on others; for example, it was Gerry who suggested that Tom break the legs of whoever was extorting him.

Then he went after MacIntyre.  He portrayed her in unflattering terms, describing her as a powerful manipulator, and said that she was the one who had killed Anne Marie Fahey.  He and Annie had settled on the love seat to watch TV, and MacIntyre had called. He'd put her off, but she'd then shown up at his house with a gun.  She put it to her head and threatened to kill herself, so Capano tried to intervene.  The gun went off and hit Annie in the back of the head. Rather than call 911 to get help, Capano had covered it up, and he was ashamed of himself for that decision.  He had tried to protect his former mistress.

To make it look as if Annie had been in her apartment that night, Capano had gone there after the "accident" and arranged things.  He'd then turned on the air conditioner and left.  He couldn't explain why he had done any of that.

He claims that he broke down, fell apart, cried and screamed.  Then after a while, he just "compartmentalized."  He put aside his feelings so he could do what had to be done.  He dispassionately described how he got the cooler and forced the body into it, noting that he didn't have to break anything to make her fit.  He then thought up an alibi, which inspired the prosecutor to point out that he was obviously thinking more clearly than he'd admitted.

Then Capano was forced to confront someone that he himself had successfully prosecuted and put into prison: Squeaky Saunders.  Twenty years earlier, Saunders had shot someone and tried to dump him at sea.  Wasn't that the model for Capano's own crime?

Capano denied it, but the association had its effect on the jury.

On the last day of his testimony, Judge Lee admonished him to stop trying to manipulate the state's questions to serve his ends.  Nevertheless, Capano managed to further alienate the jury by supporting his lies with theological distinctions between "good" and "bad" lies.

The man appeared to have no sense of morality.

Finally both sides rested and prepared for closing arguments.  Essentially the state wanted to show that Capano not only had murdered Anne Marie Fahey but had done so with premeditation.  The false story of extortion and the purchase of a gun indicated his intent.

The defense claimed it was all MacIntyre's doing, and that the prosecution had no body, no weapon, and no witnesses.  It was a completely circumstantial case, which could have happened exactly as Capano said it did.  The evidence was ambiguous.

Now it was up to the jury.


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