Press-Republican

June 6, 2013

Taylor trial moved to July 1

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Paul J. Taylor’s murder trial has been delayed to July 1.

Jury selection had been scheduled to start Monday, June 10. 

Taylor stands accused of second-degree murder in the death of Robert Rennie, a single father who lived in Keeseville.

His is the third and final trial in the murder/gang-assault case; Scott E. Denno, 20, and Michael D. Rivers, 36, were both found guilty of first-degree manslaughter and gang assault in separate trials last month.

WANTS TRANSCRIPTS

Essex County Judge Richard B. Meyer heard arguments from Essex County Public Defender Brandon Boutelle early Wednesday morning, who sought to postpone the case for a few weeks.

Escorted by deputies, Taylor came into the courtroom wearing a jail jumpsuit, ankle chains and handcuffs attached to chains around his waist.

Boutelle asked Meyer for time to obtain final court transcripts from both prior trials, involving sworn testimony from Denno and Angela Rivers, and also from a recent suppression hearing.

The two prior cases in the Rennie homicide had been heard in succession, and some of the court records had not yet been transcribed.

“Do you really need the entire trial transcripts from both trials?” Meyer asked the counselor.

“Yes, your honor,” Boutelle replied, arguing that the credibility of witness testimony is heightened in Taylor’s case.

Taylor is charged with the most serious crime in connection with Rennie’s death.

HIGHER STAKES

Rennie was found lifeless at the bottom of Mill Hill in Keeseville on Aug. 26, face down in the sand. 

His liver was lacerated front and back, and his lungs were both punctured by some 20 broken ribs, according to forensic evidence presented in court.

“You knew these cases were scheduled one right after the other?” Meyer questioned Boutelle. “My concern is that this is some strategy to avoid the trial.”

But Boutelle cited several case precedents that allowed adjournment pending final transcripts.

“I don’t really have time to have ulterior motives to avoid trial,” the defense attorney replied.

“This trial is a little different than the last two,” he added. “The stakes are sufficiently higher.”

MANSLAUGHTER CONVICTION

Taylor has a prior felony conviction and has served time in prison, which means he could face a maximum sentence of life behind bars.

In March 1997, he was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Marcus Chadwick in Moriah. Sentenced five to 15 years in prison, he got out on parole in 2010.

In addition, he was charged with felony rape the day after Rennie was found dead.

Relevant particulars of that case may be included in the upcoming trial.

“The sexual-assault charge is indictable with this case,” Meyer told Boutelle and the defendant.

It could be added by prosecution during the adjournment period.

‘NO TRIAL BY AMBUSH’

Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague was wary of any postponement. But she wanted to be sure there is reciprocal discovery as defense proceeds.

“There has never been trial by ambush on the People’s part,” she said. “I just want to make sure that we’re not going to be redoing this trial.”

Meyer reserved decision Wednesday morning to allow himself time to review the law and cases cited as precedents by Boutelle.

Mid-afternoon, he ruled to postpone Taylor’s case to July 1.

Sprague said afterward that the extra time allows the court reporter to complete the suppression-hearing transcripts.

Another case will move onto the court schedule instead. Paul T. Facey, charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty after allegedly killing his dog with a knife last summer in Westport, will go on trial on June 17.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com