ELIZABETHTOWN — Jurors found Scott E. Denno guilty on Wednesday of first-degree manslaughter and gang assault in the beating death of Robert M. Rennie.
Rennie, a father of two young girls, was found dead by the closed iron bridge in Keeseville on the morning of Aug. 26, 2012.
Denno admitted in court that he was one of three men who kicked Rennie during an attack late the previous night, but he claimed he had used the least force he could.
The medical examiner had ruled Rennie’s manner of death a homicide, finding the Keeseville man had been beaten and died of internal injuries caused by blunt-force trauma.
When Essex County Judge Richard Meyer gave instructions to the jury Wednesday morning, he told the jurors they could also consider second- and third-degree assault if the first-degree gang-assault charge did not hold up against the evidence.
But the 12-person jury did not need to consider further than charges brought by Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague.
Denno was the first in the courtroom to stand up as jurors readied to enter the courtroom.
He stood quietly as Meyer invited their decision.
The moment was tense, a culmination of six full days of testimony in a trial that took more than a week.
Denno stared ahead, his hands clasped in front of him. He didn’t flinch as the guilty verdicts were read aloud.
He looked toward the bench as individual jurors were polled, each standing and answering “yes” that he or she agreed with the verdict on both counts.
Rennie’s family, including his father, Robert J. Rennie, a sister and a brother, also stood steadfast but seemed visibly relieved with the decision.
The family attended every hour of each day of this trial.
As he left the courtroom, Mr. Rennie, the family’s spokesman, said they were grateful.
Speaking softly, he thanked the prosecutors and the jurors for their decision.
“We’re very glad for the decision rendered,” he said.
The days of testimony brought the family back through the painful time last summer when Robert was found beaten to death.
“It is reliving it all over again,” Mr. Rennie said.
The family will attend the trials of two other men charged in Robert’s death.
Sprague hugged members of the victim’s family after Denno was taken from the courtroom and the jury had been excused.
“I’m just glad the jury listened to the instructions and applied them to the evidence presented,” the DA said.
“I’m really pleased with the verdict.
The jury was sent to deliberate at about 10:17 a.m. and took just over two hours to reach a decision.
The verdict was read aloud at 1:12 p.m. when court reconvened from lunch.
TWO MORE TRIALS
Denno faces a 25-year determinate sentence on the top count, Sprague said. Meyer set the sentencing for 2:15 p.m. June 27.
The 20-year-old was returned to Essex County Jail without bail pending sentencing.
He has been held there since his arrest last October along with Michael Rivers and Paul J. Taylor, whose trials in connection with the Rennie case are scheduled later this month and in June, respectively.
Tuesday, Denno’s attorney, Joe Brennan, had asked the judge to dismiss all the charges; Meyer dropped the weapon charge relating to the footwear Denno was wearing during the kicking attack on Rennie.
Taylor faces a second-degree murder charge and others for first-degree gang assault and possession of a weapon.
DEGREE OF INTENT
Chief Public Defender Brandon E. Boutelle said separate attorneys were assigned to defend Denno, Rivers and Taylor due to the potential conflict in individual cases.
“The (attorneys) were assigned by the Elizabethtown Court when they (defendants) were arraigned,” he explained Wednesday.
Lake Placid attorney Greg Laduke will defend Rivers.
And Boutelle is defending Taylor.
The difference between first-degree manslaughter and a murder charge, he said, hinges on the degree of intent, according to the law.
First-degree manslaughter reflects an intention to injure someone that results in death.
Murder is a charge brought against someone who intended to cause a person’s death.
MUST BE UNANIMOUS
Meyer explained the first-degree manslaughter, gang assault and lesser assault charges to the jury with instructions that lasted nearly an hour early Wednesday.
First-degree manslaughter, he said, has occurred when a person acts “with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person … and causes the death” of that person.
Intent, Meyer explained, does not require premeditation and can be “formed at the very moment a person acts” to cause the result, which in this case, was Rennie’s death.
Gang assault, Meyer said, is when a person — aided by two or more people — causes “serious physical injury” that may or may not result in death.
The jury verdict on each charge must be unanimous.
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