The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court today affirmed the first-degree murder conviction against a man who viciously stabbed his girlfriend to death in front of their teenage daughter. The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Piantedosi.
The defendant and the victim had dated for 18 years and were raising their teenage daughter at the time of the murder. They lived together in a rented house in Burlington, but shortly before the killing the defendant moved into his parents’ house. The victim told her friend she asked the verbally and emotionally abusive defendant to leave their home. In the days leading up to the murder, the defendant’s mental health was suffering. He was admitted to the hospital after inflicting injuries on his arms. His doctors diagnosed him with depression and gave him a prescription for Prozac and Trazodone. After spending a few days in the hospital, the defendant was discharged. People who had contact with the defendant noted that he seemed unwell, tired, pale, and dehydrated.
During the early evening hours of May 3, 2012, the defendant went to the Burlington house to visit his daughter, who noticed the defendant was acting strangely. The defendant was going to buy his daughter dinner and the victim placed the takeout order. Shortly thereafter, the defendant and the victim began arguing in the living room and the daughter retreated to her bedroom where she began video chatting with her friend. At some point, the daughter excused herself to see whether her food had been delivered. The defendant and the victim had moved into the kitchen but were still arguing. At some point, the victim began to cry and threatened to call the police. The defendant grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen counter and chased the victim into their daughter’s bedroom. The daughter’s friend, who had been on the other end of the video chat, watched on his computer screen as the defendant stabbed the victim in the chest. The friend screamed at the defendant to stop, and the daughter came into the room and attempted to pull her father off her mother. The defendant pushed his daughter away, told the victim she had to die, and stabbed her more than 30 times. The victim died in her daughter’s bedroom. The defendant fled, but turned himself into the police the following day.
At his trial where he was charged with first-degree murder, the defendant argued he was not criminally responsible for stabbing the victim. Commonly known as the temporary insanity defense, it is a legal ploy that is almost never successful and it didn’t work in this case. The defendant’s argument was that he could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct and was unable to conform his behavior to the law as a result of his involuntary intoxication from his Prozac and Trazodone prescriptions. The defense retained a medical expert to support this theory, but the jury took only a few hours to reject it and convict the defendant of first-degree murder. The defendant had almost nothing to work with on appeal, and his complaints about supposed evidentiary mistakes went nowhere with the Supreme Judicial Court.
After losing his appeal, the defendant will now serve the rest of his life in prison. He will not be eligible for parole.