YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Jurors in Hackensack today convicted Peter Shanley of murdering his wife, Deborah, an hour after returning to the courtroom to ask questions during their deliberations.
They had began deliberating at 9 this morning before the brief appearance in Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian’s courtroom just after 2 o’clock. They returned with a verdict at 3:13.
Shanley sat there motionless and expressionless as the foreman read the verdict of guilt on all three counts: murder, possession of a knife and possession of a club that prosecutors said he beat his wife with.
Deborah Shanley’s sister, Carol Simkins, sobbed quietly and then embraced a victim’s advocate from the prosecutor’s office, who put an arm around her.
Shanley, 60, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. A manslaughter conviction would have meant 10 years or so.
Jerejian scheduled sentencing for March 22.
Defense attorney Brian Neary said “we will be reviewing the record” to determine whether Shanley has grounds for appeal.
He argued during the trial that Shanley should have been convicted of manslaughter, contending that he killed his wife of 35 years “in the course of passion, the result of provocation.”
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Carol Novey-Catuogno countered that Shanley never lost self-control and fully intended to kill the career educator and former Dumont Board of Education member.
Both sides agreed that Deborah Shanley hit her 6-foot-3-inch husband with a lamp as he stood over her bed the night of April 10, 2010.
He then removed a club that he kept in a bedside table and struck her over the head with it at least eight times.
According to his own account to detectives, Shanley left the room, retrieved a knife and returned – stabbing and cutting his wife several times. The fatal blow was to her throat.
Whether the attack flared suddenly or had been planned all along was the questions jurors had to answer.
Today, they sought clarification of provocation under the law. Rather than send questions to the courtroom, however, they were brought before Jerejian.
They asked the judge what type of provocation would be sufficient to make someone lose control.
- SPECIAL REPORT: Was Deborah Shanley’s death a cold-blooded, planned and calculated murder, or was it a crime of passion that happened during a violent dispute that she started when she slammed a lamp into her husband’s head? This is the question jurors were asked today to decide in the murder trial of Peter Shanley of Dumont. READ MORE….
Jerejian, in turn, said they had to agree that “was not sufficient to arouse the passions of an ordinary person beyond his control.”
“For example,” he said, “words alone are not sufficient. On the other hand, a threat may be adequate.”
The jurors also wanted to know whether they could have paper copies of the statement Shanley gave to investigators at Hackensack University Medical Center, where he was being treated after the killing for a broken ankle, a cut on his neck and a gash on his head.
Jerejian said the transcripts weren’t in evidence.
If they truly wanted to hear them, he said, he would bring everyone back into the courtroom and have them entered into evidence.
The jurors didn’t exercise the option after returning to their deliberations, which ended about an hour later.
“Had the judge allowed us to present all the evidence in the case, we believe it would have made a difference,” said assistant counsel Emile Lisboa IV.
Noting that Deborah Shanley got interested in riding motorcycles after meeting a man online, Lisboa argued that online chats, daily emails and other communications about what was becoming relationship between them should have been shown to the jurors.
Then, he said, the jury could have taken into account an apparently escalating series of events that led up to her death — and not just what happened that night.
Jerejian, who previously refused to allow the evidence in, did so again.
“There is no evidence your client knew they were dating, [or] how long they were dating,” the judge said. “The provocation is in essence the physical confrontationn in the bedroom and the reaction to that.”
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia
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