ELIZABETHTOWN — The defense’s opening statement in the Michael Rivers manslaughter case argues there is more to the vicious beating death of Robert M. Rennie in Keeseville last summer.
Rivers is charged with first-degree manslaughter, felony gang assault and possession of a weapon in the death of Rennie, who was found lifeless near the closed iron bridge Aug. 26.
Scott E. Denno was convicted of the first two of those same charges two weeks ago.
Paul J. Taylor, also of Keeseville, is charged with second-degree homicide in the case; his trial is set for sometime in June.
‘SAW HIM GET UP’
In opening remarks Tuesday, defense attorney Gregory LaDuke questioned statements made by Angela Rivers, Michael Rivers’s wife.
She had testified as an eyewitness in Denno’s trial and is slated to take the stand in her husband’s as well.
LaDuke said Mrs. Rivers gave conflicting statements to police.
“I really can’t promise you what she’s going to say this time around,” he told the newly seated jury.
But LaDuke suggests that Rennie was “found right on top” of that bridge.
“There’s blood on the guardrail; there’s blood on the stones,” he said, alleging previous accounts presented in court statements and at the Denno trial did not depict where Rennie was killed.
LaDuke drew from previous testimony given by Mrs. Rivers, who had outlined events she said took place in a parking area some 750 feet up Mill Hill Road.
Both Mrs. Rivers and Denno testified that they saw Rennie get up and run down the hill after being kicked by all three men charged in the his death.
LaDuke said the fight took place at the bridge.
“Bloody things on the tarmac” point to the area where the fight occurred, he said.
“Not up above (on Mill Hill Road) where Angela said.”