On January 21, 2014, Paul’s case was dealt both a setback and step forward. On the positive side, the New York Court of Appeals reversed two legal rulings of the trial court.
First, the Court of Appeals ruled that Paul’s original trial attorneys represented Paul while under a significant conflict of interest. More specifically, Dawn Florio (Paul’s trial attorney) was facing a simultaneous indictment by the same prosecutor for smuggling drugs to one of her clients at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility in Queens.
The Court of Appeals explained that the trial judge erred in allowing Florio to represent Paul at trial as she could try to curry favor with the prosecutor and hold back on her defense of Paul.
In addition, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge also erred in allowing the prosecutor to present the jury with Paul’s old journal entries. These writings and drawings dated back as many as ten years prior, during Paul’s teenage years, and ranged from old song lyrics written in collaboration with bandmates to drawings of teenage mutant ninja turtles with swords.
The prosecutor used these harmless and out-of-context journal entries to paint Paul as having a hatred towards women and an obsession with knives/swords. The Court of Appeals ruled in Paul’s favor that these journals unduly prejudiced the jury against Paul without providing useful evidence.
Despite overturning legal aspects of Paul’s trial, the Court of Appeals explained that they were confined to evaluate the “facts” of the case as presented at the original trial and were not allowed to evaluate any “new” information that was not specifically included in the trial regardless of how incomplete or flawed as those “facts” were. The Court of Appeals felt that the key piece of evidence that allowed the jury to convict Paul at trial was the partial “fingerprint” found at the scene of the crime.
Although the state of New York allocated them government funds to hire scientific experts, Paul’s conflicted attorneys never hired an expert to show that the partial “fingerprint” was pre-existing or that it would even match Paul’s (this was never confirmed, just implied by the prosecution). Paul’s attorneys not only failed to hire a fingerprint expert, but also did not hire a single forensic, DNA or other experts to perform any sort of scientific testing or examination of the evidence submitted. They only called character witnesses in Paul’s defense.
Without proper scientific support, the prosecutor erroneously told the jury that the partial “fingerprint” was left at the time of the crime – Paul’s attorneys did not refute that unsupported statement and failed to present easily attainable scientific testimony to show that the fingerprint was underneath the blood (not on top of it).
The “fingerprint” became a very damaging, misrepresented fact. The Court of Appeals explained that they had to ignore the information supporting that the partial “fingerprint” was pre-existing because it was not part of the original trial. So, although the Court of Appeals overturned trial rulings, they concluded that those trial deficiencies were not enough to outweigh the evidence against Paul at trial to reverse the case – specifically, the “fingerprint” which reads in the trial record as being left at the time of the crime.
It is a Catch 22 – the Court of Appeals found that in order to grant Paul a new, fair trial because of the conflicted trial attorneys, Paul has to show that based on the trial record, the jury outcome would have been different. The problem is that the very conflicted attorneys were the ones who failed to consult and call any scientific experts to show that the “fingerprint” was pre-existing. So, if the conflicted attorneys performed better at trial and called and expert, the Court of Appeals would be able to order a new case.
Sadly, the Court of Appeals was also not allowed to consider the fact that two of the jurors told 48 Hours Mystery that they were very much on the fence about what they had heard at trial and ultimately were swayed to convict Paul based on the behavior of Paul’s trial attorneys.
While disappointed in the ultimate, circular conclusion of the Court of Appeals, we remain steadfast and more determined than ever in our fight to right this horrible wrongful conviction. Ultimately, the legal rulings from the Court of Appeals will help Paul in the subsequent legal steps. We ask everyone who has believed in Paul, prayed for Paul, advocated for Paul, contributed love, time or money to Paul’s fight for freedom and Catherine’s right to justice, to know how thankful and deeply appreciative Paul is to each and every one of you.
Now, more than ever, we need your support and contributions. None of us fighting for Paul will rest until he walks out of that prison. If you would like more information, please contact us with your questions. We will provide our next legal update in the coming weeks as we work with Paul’s legal team to set the next steps in this battle. God Bless Paul and his family, and please keep them in your prayers.