Murder Conviction Of Ex-Cop Upheld In 1996 Brawl
By MARK TOOR, The Chief - The Civil Employees' Weekly
Friday, July 1, 2011 5:00 pm
The state’s highest court has affirmed a guilty verdict for a former city Transit Police Officer convicted of murder in Westchester County for fatally shooting a man who had struck his father with a metal baseball bat during a dispute over a parking space 15 years ago.
In a 13-line order, the Court of Appeals upheld an Appellate Division ruling that there was “no reasonable possibility” that the failure of prosecutors to disclose that two witnesses had changed their stories had contributed to the guilty verdict in Richard DiGuglielmo’s 1997 trial.
20 Years to Life
The ruling leaves Mr. DiGuglielmo, 45, to finish serving his prison term of 20 years to life. He was freed in 2008 by a County Court Judge who cited the conflicting witness statements, but the Appellate Division ordered him back to prison when it affirmed the conviction in 2010. The earliest he could be released is July 10, 2019, the state Department of Correctional Services said.
The shooting that wrecked Mr. DiGuglielmo’s life occurred in October 1996. He was helping out at the family deli in Dobbs Ferry when his father asked a customer patronizing a pizza parlor across the street, Richard Campbell, 37, not to park in one of the spaces reserved for the deli. When Mr. Campbell parked at the deli anyway, the father pasted a “no parking” sticker on the car window, as he had been told to do by local police.
Mr. Campbell, a bodybuilder, attacked the father, who was recovering from a heart attack, with his fists. Mr. DiGuglielmo and his brother-in-law came out to stop the fight and wrestled Mr. Campbell to the ground before returning to the deli. Mr. Campbell then got up, removed the bat from his trunk and struck the father. Mr. DiGuglielmo took a revolver from under the deli counter and shot Mr. Campbell three times. He said that as he shot, Mr. Campbell was swinging for his father’s head.
Case of Self-Defense
Mr. DiGuglielmo’s partisans say it was a clear case of self-defense and blamed Jeanine Pirro, then Westchester County District Attorney and now playing a judge in a television court show, for hyping the case and injecting a racial element (Mr. DiGuglielmo is white, Mr. Campbell was black). Witnesses testified that Mr. Campbell was in a batting stance rather than swinging, and was moving away from the father when he was shot.
Two witnesses later told Mr. DiGuglielmo’s lawyers that they had initially told police that Mr. Campbell was indeed swinging for the head and they thought Mr. DiGuglielmo’s attack was justified, but that they were pressured by police to change their stories. The appeal was based on those conflicting statements, but the Appellate Division and now the Court of Appeals ruled that disclosures of the conflict would not have changed the trial’s result.
Mr. DiGuglielmo’s family criticized the ruling. “We are deeply shocked and saddened that the court has chosen to keep an innocent man imprisoned,” they said in a statement. “We are heartbroken but will continue to work each and every day to free Richard.”
The Campbell family said, “Charles will never return...and the man who senselessly shot him will be separated from his family and friends for many more years...His family hopes that something constructive will come from his death, and Mr. DiGuglielmo’s imprisonment, if they serve as a lesson to young people to think about the consequences of their actions before acting out of anger.”