Thursday, November 02, 2006

ax murder....for real!

Christopher Porco was recently convicted of killing his father and brutally injuring his mother with a fire ax. This 22 year old student at the University of Rochester will soon be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. Christopher studied biomedical engineering and economics and was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He scored higher than 1400 on his SATs, but was not noted for his academic success. But why did he do it?

Christopher was said to have recently been fighting with his parents. He had forged his father’s signature for loans to pay for school and a new car. Angry emails were exchanged, but they had supposedly reconciled prior to the attacks. Christopher, however, had been accused of theft in earlier instances. But can financial problems lead to the murder of your parents?

The evidence did not seem overwhelming for the accusation of Christopher. Even his mother Joan continually testified for his innocence. His father, Peter, was related to the Bonanno crime family in New York city. He was said to have been on bad terms with a certain member nicknamed “The Fireman.” Here is a link to the prosecution’s allegation and the defense’s rebuttals: http://timesunion.com/specialreports/porco/graphics/porcocase.pdf. Do you think that the evidence is enough to accuse? It scares me to think that someone of my generation could lose his entire future if wrongly convicted.

CBS “48 hours Mystery” will be showing a segment on the murder on November 4 at 10pm ET/PT.

(the information was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Porco and http://timesunion.com/specialreports/porco/)

16 comments:

mira said...

I watched the "48 hours" special that was shown on the Porco murder. I became very disturbed. Christopher seems innocent! All of the proof is completely circumstantial. I had assumed that in this modern age there needs to be physical evidence. There was none of his DNA on the crime scene or any trace of blood on Chris after the murder. In this scientific era, can someone be condemned to life in jail simply on speculation? Chris' defense attorneys truly believe him to be innocent and are distraught with the outcome of the trial. On the television program, they showed Chris Porco’s 23 birthday party. Very sad! After the sentencing, his life is ultimately over. It scares me to think that he might be going to jail wrongfully accused. Does the jury find it better to put a possible innocent man in jail over letting a murder go free? I could not in good conscious condemn someone to life in prison without complete assurance that they were guilty. The law states that everyone is assumed innocent until proven guilty. Was the evidence sufficient to prove guilt?

Sleeping Cheetah said...

Mira I completely agree with you. Last Christmas I served on my first jury in an Identity Theft crime and the prosecutor told us over and over that the case she was making didn't have to be watertight, but "within a shadow of a doubt." I understood the reasoning behind this (there are some things that just cannot be proven), but it triggered something in me and I still remember, to this day, the weird feeling I got when she said it. It made me wonder, what if the defendant really is just getting circumstantially fucked?
I'm sure a certain percent of convicted felons are wrongfully convicted, and it's really hard to accept because, honestly, what if that was one of us or one of our family members or friends?
I think that it would be reasonable to convict Christopher without direct evidence only if the prosecutor was able to actually prove that it was completely IMPOSSIBLE for anyone besides Christopher to have committed the crime.

esbar said...

Looking at this case makes me put myself, or my brothers, or friends in the same situation. I would hope that if such a young person is tried for such a serious crime that his or her guiltiness would have to be undoubtedly proven. I can't imagine waking up one day, being convicted of a crime, and knowing that my my goals, my hopes, my aspirations, the essence of my life would be over. I would spend the rest of my years in jail. SCARY. On the other hand, if you analyze this crime in light of some of the novels we've been reading circumstantial evidence would definitely be enough. I know that in the era of Easy Rawlins and Philip Marlowe dna evidence wasn't an option, but nevertheless, we believe the cases they prove without a doubt. I am not saying that the circumstantial evidence used to convict Christopher Porco was adequate, rather I am left with a larger question. In this era of scientific and technological advancement must criminals be convicted only in the event that physical evidence is available, or will we, as a technologically literate society ever be satisfied with a conviction based solely on circumstantial evidence?

Megan Skorupa said...

I have a couple of questions about all this: 1)Why didn't the defense try to come up with another plausible murder suspect, because I agree with the notion put forth that, on a certain level you need to show that SOMEONE else could have done the deed since the prosecution will be trying to show that NO ONE else could have committed the crime. 2) What makes you suspect his innocence? Is it merely because the evidence doesn't sway you without non-mitochondrial DNA landing Chris definitively? Well, as was also pointed out, the justice system operated without DNA incrimination for almost 200 hundred years: are the convictions of the past and the precedents of the past merely invalidated because they occurred in a time without such resources? My answer is "no." Yes DNA and physical evidence is helpful in building a case, but those are not the only pieces of evidence leading to a conviction. As well, do you want to believe in his innocence because he is a supposedly average college kid with his whole life ahead of him? That is allowing subjectivity and emotion to cloud the judicial process. Yes it is awful that his life should be thrown away with so much promise, but if he committed the crime he signed his own fate in blood! No one wants a "false positive" in the judicial workings, but does that mean we lessen the rigor of our logic....no! This kid is NOT the average college kid. From a psychological standpoint, his prior crimes(falsifying information to enroll in college) and history of gross abuse of his family's love and trust(staging burglaries in his home and selling his parents stuff on ebay?!) do not do much for establishing a fine character(to say the least). This evidence of manipulation added to his intelligence and interesting display of consciouslessness lead me to wonder if he isn't a possible psychopath, which it is estimated 1 in 100 people are. (Psychopath here is a psychological term referring to an absence of regard for others feelings, a lack of remorse coupled with socially/morally-inappropriate self-serving acts.)
Yes the evidence is definitely enough to accuse, whether it is enough to convict was for the jury to decide. Which they did. I hope the appeal process reveals any truth that wasn't discovered, but maybe the noir element of this tale is not that he was set-up/wrongfully convicted. Maybe it is a noir story because the kid actually DID do it.

Eric86 said...

This is a very interesting story that we may never see fully resolved due to the complexity of the case and the lack of physical evidence. I struggle to form my own opinion regarding Christopher’s guilt or innocence after reading over the facts and imagining what could have motivated this young man to murder his father and severely wound his mother. The prosecution and defense both provide plausible arguments. More importantly, however, is the point Megan briefly alluded to in her post, the idea of justice by trial. As is any mechanism so extensively used, the judicial system is far from perfect, but represents the closest thing to truth we are likely to find in a country predisposed to crime and violence such as the United States. A while back I read a book called "Trial By Jury" that dealt with nearly exactly the same issue. The book explored one man’s moral struggle between doing what he thought was the “right” thing, in other words implementing his own brand of justice, and doing what the judicial system required him to do, that is convicting only if guilt could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The book highlights the importance of adhering to these stringent guidelines if the judicial system is to stand the test of time. I too was recently on my first jury and saw the strength of the law first-hand. The theatrics of the case, as acted out by the prosecution and defense, overshadowed what little evidence existed. Although the case I sat on was for petty theft and not ax murder, I was still able to see the noir elements of deceit and persuasion operating in the courtroom. In this way the courtroom, rather than the scene of the crime, is the perfect setting for true detective work. What really happened to Joan and Peter Porco? I have no idea, but I am completely at ease with Christopher spending the rest of his life in prison if a jury convicts him of the crime. Wishing for anything else on the grounds of skepticism or personal connection (college student) is outrageous. It is just not reasonable to make exceptions for individuals when there are many others who sit in prison wrongfully convicted or walk the streets wrongfully acquitted. Until a more efficient system arises to deal with such disturbing cases there is not much we can do other than criticize our current system.

Eric86 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
linztastic said...

I think that one of the most interesting pieces of information I read was the comment about connections to the Bonanno crime family in NY. Maybe the defense was grasping for straws, but it looks like the kid is "circumstantially f***ed" anyways. For Megan's comment, yeah, the defense allegedly got a little pissy that the police didn't pay enough attention to the mob connection to come up with someone else to pin the murder on... and the fireman axe reminds me of waking up to a race horse head in your bed. But I think that if the mob had honestly wanted someone dead, they wouldn't have screwed up by leaving the wife alive. And maybe they would have gotten the son too. I guess my opinion is from the perspective of someone under the thumb of a mob government. I think he did it, and I don't care if he's "our age" or if he has a future ahead of him or if the crime family bought the law. He's already a freak by virtue of his sociopathic/psychoopathic tendencies. Stick the sucker in jail and let us taxpayers pay for him to have square meals and watch tv. Sheesh, can't win for losing. Maybe it's a noir story because in the end nothing really matters, it's all Chinatown.

linztastic said...

I think that one of the most interesting pieces of information I read was the comment about connections to the Bonanno crime family in NY. Maybe the defense was grasping for straws, but it looks like the kid is "circumstantially f***ed" anyways. For Megan's comment, yeah, the defense allegedly got a little pissy that the police didn't pay enough attention to the mob connection to come up with someone else to pin the murder on... and the fireman axe reminds me of waking up to a race horse head in your bed. But I think that if the mob had honestly wanted someone dead, they wouldn't have screwed up by leaving the wife alive. And maybe they would have gotten the son too. I guess my opinion is from the perspective of someone under the thumb of a mob government. I think he did it, and I don't care if he's "our age" or if he has a future ahead of him or if the crime family bought the law. He's already a freak by virtue of his sociopathic/psychoopathic tendencies. Stick the sucker in jail and let us taxpayers pay for him to have square meals and watch tv. Sheesh, can't win for losing. Maybe it's a noir story because in the end nothing really matters, it's all Chinatown.

ess1015 said...

I agree that there really doesn't seem to be enough evidence to convict someone of murder. However, it really isn't particulary surprising. Circumstantial evidence is often incredibly important in any crime investigation, and in its ultimate conviction of someone. It generally sounds very persuasive, and it is, of course, always applicable to the situation, making it tempting for a jury to say someone is guilty. But it is still quite terrifying to think that this is all the police may need to convict someone for murder, and basically ruin someone's life (if s/he was, in fact, innocent). I also think it's really random that his approximate SAT score is mentioned. What in the world does that have to do with anything??

Breanne said...

I think it's difficult to assume the guilt/innocence of this young man, especially since I don't know all the details... but just because all of the evidence against him is circumstantial doesn't necessarily mean that it's any less worthy of convicting him. Okay, so there isn't any hair or blood or skin cells left behind to incrimminate him, but I complete agree with Megan when I reiterate that yes, indeed, trials have been functioning for hundreds of years without DNA evidence, so why should a person's guilt or innonence hinge entirely on one type of evidence? Surely it's the most concrete - I suppose you can't argue with science - but if the kid appears guilty in every other aspect besides scientific proof, then it's still entirely possible that he's guilty. After all, science can't always explain EVERYTHING (for example, why ARE yawns contagious? Nobody knows...), and science can be wrong sometimes. And consider this: everyone was willing to convict Scott Peterson of double murder on nothing BUT circumstantial evidence, and let's be honest... we ALL know Scott did it. So my thoughts in connection with the ax murderer case? I think that if the evidence - circumstantial or no - points to the kid's guilt, then he's guilty. I suppose it's okay to indulge in my own naivetee and put just a smidgen of faith into the American judicial system.

mynameisbrian said...

While this case is unsettling, I'd like to mention that it isn't uncommon for convictions to be based on circumstantial evidence.

Also, I'm sure there's more evidence to convict the kid than what was given in the .pdf. I find it hard to believe that the courts would convict a teenager when theres another suspect.

In response to the questions posed in the blog, I don't think academic achievements have anything to do with one's morals, ethics, or sanity. Even if he was a diligent student, by no means does that make him a more mentally stable human being or someone with a conscience. I don't find it very hard to believe that the kid murdered someone over financial issues- I'm sure many people have killed for even more trivial reasons.

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Haida Maclean said...

The reason their was no DNA left at the crime scene is because being an employee at a veterinarian surgery clinic he was well aware of what to bring to a murder to assure nothing was left behind. He took hours to make sure there was nothing left behind. He was a psychopathic murderer, plain simple

Haida Maclean said...

The reason their was no DNA left at the crime scene is because being an employee at a veterinarian surgery clinic he was well aware of what to bring to a murder to assure nothing was left behind. He took hours to make sure there was nothing left behind. He was a psychopathic murderer, plain simple