Sunday, August 31, 2008

Author Indicted in Massachusetts

Peter Manso, a writer working on the story of the murder of Christa Worthington, was indicted a week ago Friday on multiple firearms charges relating to an incident that occurred in December.

In an article in Thursday's New York Times, Manso claims the indictment is an attempt to silence him:
"When’s the last time you heard about someone facing 10 years in prison for not renewing a gun permit?” asked Mr. Manso, who contends he was “overcharged and selectively prosecuted by the very D.A. who is the focus of my book.”
You may remember the Christa Worthington story. Worthington was the fashion writer who was found stabbed to death in her bungalow in Truro on Cape Cod on January 6, 2002. The murder made news because Worthington was a single mother and her two-year-old daughter Ava was found clinging to her body. The little girl told the neighbor who found them that "Mommy fell down."

Within days of Christa's death, police had questioned the neighbor, who was a former boyfriend. They had also uncovered the identity of Ava's father, who turned out to be a local fisherman, married with six children of his own. Since forensics indicated sexual activity shortly before the murder, the police focused on DNA evidence. They collected samples from the neighbor, the fisherman and Christa's ex-boyfriend in New York.

A year later, despite a $25,000 reward, no progress had been made in the case. Maria Flook, a college professor, published a book titled Invisible Eden on the murder in mid-2003, which climbed to #6 on the NY Times best-seller list.

Two years later, on the anniversary of Christa's murder, police asked the adult males in Truro to voluntarily donate saliva samples. In April, 2005, the police arrested Christopher McCowen, the trash collector for Christa's neighborhood, based on a DNA sample he had offered the previous spring in March, 2004.

McCowen had only a verbal IQ of 78 (69 is considered impaired), and his attorney argued that his client had engaged in a consensual relationship with Christa. On November 16, 2006, McCowen was convicted of the murder. He received a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

According to the New York Times, the writer Peter Manso assisted the defense team during the trial:
After the verdict relatives of several jurors told Mr. Manso of racial bias among some jurors [Mr. McCowen is black], which Mr. Manso relayed to Judge Gary A. Nickerson, who held a hearing to interview the jurors. The judge later found no grounds for a retrial.
Manso decided to write about both the case and the legal system in which it was tried:
The book, Mr. Manso keeps promising, will be a “bombshell” exposing a corrupt and inept justice system riddled with cronyism and corruption. He has been feeding tabloidy morsels to the press and trashing local law enforcement officials by name, saying they run this exclusive seaside town like “a suburb of redneck Mississippi.”
Last December, while Manso was in California, his home alarm in Truro went off. The police entered the house and saw a loaded shotgun in a closet. They left, obtained a warrant and returned to find, along with a .38-caliber pistol and the shotgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, which is illegal to own.

The charges against Mr. Manso included the fact that the weapons were loaded and not properly stored and that the licenses had expired. The most serious charge--that of possession of the assault weapon--carries a maximum sentence of ten years incarceration.

According to Mr. Manso, he had purchased the AR-15 before a change in the gun laws prohibited ownership of the assault rifles. He insists the police and prosecution are trying to discredit him because of his outspokenness about the Worthington case.

No comments: