Courthouse Steps Maven
| December 4th, 2007 07:04 AM
Life or death?
Capano shows no emotion as foreman pronounces him guilty as charged
By CRIS BARRISH
and TERRY SPENCER
Anne Marie Fahey's sister, Kathleen Fahey-Hosey, hugs a friend after the family's news conference Sunday.
Judge William Swain Lee asked for the verdict.
The foreman, a General Motors pipe fitter, stared hard at Thomas J. Capano.
"Guilty as charged," the foreman said in a strong, solemn voice.
Capano's mother and sister embraced, sobbing. His daughters wept. Across the aisle in the hush of Courtroom 302, Anne Marie Fahey's siblings did the same.
Sitting at the defense table, flanked by his four defense attorneys and backed by six armed guards, Capano stared straight ahead, showing no emotion.
Delaware's most celebrated murder trial in decades reached its climax at 10:01 a.m. Sunday with Capano branded a murderer for killing Fahey, his former mistress, on June 27, 1996, and dumping her body at sea the next day.
Capano, 49, a wealthy and once-powerful Wilmington attorney, will now receive a sentence of death or life in prison. The trial's penalty phase, which begins Wednesday, is expected to take two weeks.
About 150 people packed the third-floor courtroom's wooden pews to hear the verdict, while dozens more lined the winding marble steps leading to its door. Outside, nearly 300 reporters, photographers and spectators gathered on the steps of the Daniel L. Herrmann Courthouse.
The crowd's sentiment was evident as cheers erupted when a man with a radio to his ear yelled, "Guilty."
From the moment the verdict was announced, prosecutors Colm F. Connolly and Ferris W. Wharton accepted numerous congratulations for their victory. They had contended during the 12-week trial that Capano was a cold-blooded killer who had plotted the slaying of Gov. Carper's scheduling secretary for months.
As they emerged from the courthouse, Connolly and Wharton were applauded by the crowd. But Connolly said it was not a day for celebration.
"Tom Capano put a lot of people through a lot of distress, suffering and pain," the 34-year-old assistant U.S. attorney said. "My heart goes out to the Fahey family...While we have a just result and [Capano] will someday pay a price for his conduct, we also don't have Anne Marie Fahey here. That's a loss the Fahey family and all of Anne Marie's friends will never be fully compensated for."
Capano's disappointed attorneys said that while they will appeal the verdict, the next step is persuading Lee and the jury to spare their client's life.
"We hoped the jury would agree there was reasonable doubt," said Joseph S. Oteri, the high-profile Boston attorney Capano hired in May to lead his defense team. "The jury was a serious jury. They have spoken and we are bound by that."
About 45 minutes after the verdict, Deborah A. MacIntyre arrived at the courthouse and was engulfed by reporters and camera crews. MacIntyre, the longtime mistress Capano falsely accused of accidentally shooting Fahey in a suicidal rage, said she cried after seeing the verdict announced on television.
Asked to describe her feelings, the misty-eyed MacIntyre said: "Tremendous relief and happiness for the Fahey family."
She said it it was "very frustrating and very hurtful" to be falsely accused, and added: "I have nothing to say to Tom...I do not love Tom Capano at all."
Case grips Delaware
The curious began arriving shortly after dawn Sunday.
Word that a verdict had been reached at 7:50 p.m. Saturday was broadcast on television throughout the evening and morning hours and was bannered across the top of Sunday newspapers.
Since Fahey's disappearance 31 months ago, this case has gripped Delaware as perhaps no other has. Three hundred people searched nearby Brandywine Park that Fourth of July, hoping to find a clue to her whereabouts. Her brothers and sister stood watch at her Washington Street apartment for a month, asking in the media that anyone who might have information please come forward. A billboard along Interstate 95 pleaded: "Help us find Anne Marie Fahey."
But Capano, who knew exactly what happened, was telling police and Fahey's friends she might have committed suicide or left town after he dined with her at Philadelphia's Ristorante Panorama on June 27, 1996. He insisted he had dropped her off unharmed.
For the next 17 months, the pressure on Capano built as investigators closed in and the media reported their every move. It was revealed that the weekend after Fahey disappeared, Capano had thrown away a love seat and rug from his den.
In early 1997, The News Journal reported Capano's brother Gerard sold his boat without an anchor. Could that be part of the mystery?
Still, Capano remained free.
On Oct. 8, 1997, federal agents raided Gerard's home, finding more than 20 guns and 2 grams of cocaine. He was threatened with arrest. Days later, state child protection workers visited Gerard and his wife, Michelle, to investigate a complaint that their two young children were not safe.
Within a month, Gerard cracked and told investigators that on June 28, 1996, he was leaving for work at 5:45 a.m. when he found Thomas parked in his driveway.
Seven hours later, Gerard said, they were 60 miles off New Jersey, trying unsuccessfully to sink a 40.5-gallon cooler with a body stuffed inside. Gerard shot it. It still wouldn't sink. They retrieved it. Thomas opened the cooler, weighted the body with anchors and threw it into the sea. Gerard said he then threw the cooler overboard.
Three days later, on Nov. 11, 1997, Capano was arrested. Police said Capano, acting alone, had killed Fahey because she was ending their three-year affair.
Prosecutors then got a miraculous break.
A fisherman came forward, saying he had a cooler he had found floating in the ocean shortly after Fahey disappeared. It had been pierced by a bullet -- a fact investigators had not made public.
Gerard's story now had corroboration.
Through almost a year in prison, Capano remained silent. But then on Oct. 26, the trial's opening day, Oteri told the jury Capano was innocent. Fahey, he said, had died in a "horrible, outrageous, tragic accident."
Testifying Dec. 21, Capano finally gave his version of events. MacIntyre had burst into his house to find him watching television with Fahey. In a jealous, suicidal rage, she pulled a gun, which fired when he grabbed her arm, Capano said.
A bullet struck Fahey behind the right ear and she died instantly, he claimed. In order to protect MacIntyre, Capano said, he had willingly watched his life be destroyed.
Whether the jury believed his story would be revealed Sunday.
Judge Lee drew polite applause when he walked briskly up the courthouse steps shortly before 9 a.m.
Wharton and the Faheys soon followed. The family marched in tight formation through the throng, which became silent at their arrival.
Next came Capano's 74-year-old mother, Marguerite, who was pushed down King Street in her wheelchair.
"My son is innocent," she snapped at reporters, then made an unflattering remark about a woman, apparently referring to MacIntyre.
Polite applause greeted Connolly, the last of the major players to arrive. The defense team avoided the crowd by entering through a back door, meeting with Capano in a basement holding cell.
The media and spectators were admitted to the courthouse after passing through two metal detectors before reaching the courtroom.
Families hear verdict
The atmosphere was tense as some reporters argued over seats and spectators whispered expectantly. Connolly, Wharton and Robert E. Donovan, the Wilmington detective who was the case's lead investigator, smiled as they leaned on the jury box to chat.
Silence descended as Capano, dressed in a dark suit, was led by his guards through a side door into the courtroom. It was 9:54.
Before taking his seat at the defense table, he gave a glum smile to his mother and gathered family, which included his sister, Marian Ramunno, three of his four teen-age daughters and his ex-wife, Kay. Missing was his brother Joseph, a frequent spectator, who was in Dallas on business. As expected, neither Gerard nor another brother, Louis, was present. Both had testified for the prosecution.
A minute later, the buzzer announcing Lee's arrival sounded and the spectators rose.
After the court was called to order, Lee warned he would tolerate no outbursts. He then addressed the Fahey and Capano families.
"Some group of people is going to be very upset -- I understand that," he said. "But I want you to control your emotions until you get out of the courtroom."
He summoned the jury.
First came the four alternates, who were followed by the six men and six women who had decided Capano's fate.
Not one looked at Capano as they took their seats.
When the foreman announced the verdict, the cheers outside the courtroom were audible, but the spectators remained silent.
Capano never moved. Neither did the prosecutors and defense attorneys.
After the jurors were polled, they were excused until Wednesday. Capano, still showing no emotion, was handcuffed and taken from the courtroom to a waiting van for the trip back to Gander Hill prison. The hearing, which had taken about 10 minutes, was adjourned.
FBI Special Agent Eric J. Alpert, who worked closely with Donovan during the investigation, walked to the prosecution table and slapped his colleague on the back.
Donovan, chewing his ever-present paper clip, smiled.
Connolly and Wharton stood and turned toward the gallery, proud but subdued smiles creasing their faces.
Across from the Faheys, the Capanos cried in silence. Marian Ramunno gently hugged her mother and kissed her on the forehead.
Marguerite Capano, grasping a tissue, rose from her wheelchair and walked to her granddaughters to comfort them.
Robert Fahey, Anne Marie's brother, walked into the courthouse hallway and hugged a friend.
"They did it for her," he said.