DANNEMORA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A little more than seven years ago, I was sitting at a red light when a bright yellow jeep pulled up next to me. If you are from the Capital Region, you can’t see a yellow jeep without thinking of notorious and convicted ax murderer Christopher Porco. After the jeep drove away, I sat a moment thinking about the murder case that shook the area nearly twenty years ago and remembered two things. First, that the jury convicted Porco in just a few hours for the murder of his father Peter and attempted murder of his mother Joan. I also remembered that Porco never took the stand in his own defense, so none of us ever heard his side of the story.
That night I wrote a letter to Porco in prison at Dannemora and to my surprise, a few months later he responded. It started a correspondence that involved a dozen or so letters back and forth over the years and a visit I made three hours up the Northway to meet him in person behind bars. He told me all those years ago, that he was innocent and had a new legal team that was going to help him prove it. He also promised me that if and when he filed a new legal argument with the court, he would sit down with me for an interview.
That interview happened on the morning of Tuesday, December 27, 2022, only a few hours after my 60th birthday. There was no cake or candles to blow out, just a rigorous process to get into the prison to see Porco and two hours of my asking the questions I thought you’d want me to ask.
My first was the obvious one- Christopher Porco, did you commit this horrible crime? Porco’s answer, “I didn’t. I had nothing to do with this. I’ve said that from day one because it’s true.”
Porco acknowledged that he was an arrogant young man eighteen years ago and committed acts and crimes that he is not proud of, adding, “I understand why police thought I did it. I don’t blame them for arresting me or trying me, but they made mistakes in their case.”
It’s those mistakes that Porco’s new attorney, Danielle Muscatello of Barket Epstein in New York City, is hoping another judge will take a hard look at. She is filing what is known as a 440 Motion, a legal argument that asks the criminal court to set aside the verdict all those years ago and give the Porco case another hard look.
Muscatello says her client’s guilt all hinges on the prosecution’s very tight timeline. Meaning, could he physically get from the University of Rochester college campus in the middle of the night, commit this crime, clean up from a bloody crime scene, get gasoline without anyone seeing him, then get back to school shortly after 8 A.M.?
She says it’s impossible, “In order for Christopher to have done this, and we of course adamantly maintain that he did not, he would have to commit these heinous acts in a very, very narrow timespan and what his attorneys at trial failed to do is break down that timeline. When you break it down piece by piece it doesn’t fit, and it doesn’t fit because it didn’t happen.”
The new legal motion argues that Porco deserves a new trial for four reasons. First, he had ineffective legal counsel who dropped the ball on key pieces of evidence. Second, he alleges that evidence that was unlawfully seized was used against him at the trial. Third, Porco’s lawyer said the government suppressed evidence that would have proven Porco couldn’t have committed the crime. And last, they say a detective with the Bethlehem Police Department had a prior relationship with Porco because he once dated his daughter. They further allege that this detective didn’t like Porco and therefore should not have been allowed to work the case.
They also cite a renowned pathologist who has looked at the evidence from the case and determined that Peter Porco could not have died when police say he did, again, undermining the prosecution’s case. In a somewhat startling allegation, Porco’s team says police were aware of a potential alibi witness that would have placed Chris Porco on campus in Rochester, at the exact time police say he was driving down the Thruway to commit the murder. They further allege that this information was deliberately buried in a mountain of paperwork so Porco’s lawyers would miss it.
Accusing your attorneys of falling down on the job is a serious one, so I contacted Terry Kindlon and Laurie Shanks, his previous lawyers, for comment. Kindlon and Shanks both offered the following statement for the record, “While we certainly hope Christopher Porco is successful in seeing his conviction vacated, we dispute any assertion that we did not give him a full and vigorous defense. We lived this case for two full years and there was not a witness we didn’t pursue or a lead we didn’t follow in the effort to exonerate Christopher.”
One thing is clear in talking to Porco in prison, his mother is still his biggest advocate. As Porco puts it, “She’s the toughest person you’ll ever meet. we speak every day. She has borne the brunt of this without a doubt. So, we’ve gotten through this together really. We’re the support system for each other, but she’s endured much more than I ever will”
I asked Porco if he knew what many in the Capital Region think of him. Meaning, that he’s a killer. His reply was, “Yes, of course, it does. It bothers me greatly. I have to stay focused and prove my innocence.”
My final question to Porco was this- If you are granted a new trial and the prosecution doesn’t want to put everyone through this again, might you consider pleading guilty to the attack if they offered you time served and let you go free?
His answer, “No. Crazy at it sounds I’m committed to seeing this through.”
It could take months for Porco’s lawyers to learn if their latest legal maneuver was successful. Until then, he is now in year 17 of a 50-year to life sentence.