Jury in murder retrial could get case Tuesday
Jurors in the murder retrial of Nicholas Pascarella Jr. probably will begin deliberations Tuesday after attorneys sum up their cases in closing remarks scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
The eight-man, four-woman jury must decide whether Pascarella, 41, is guilty of the premeditated murder of his father, Nicholas Sr., or whether he acted out of extreme emotional dis-
tress and is therefore guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter when he beat his father to death with a baseball bat on Dec. 27, 2014.
A trial in late March and early April resulted in a hung jury after more than four days of deliberations.
In a case that hinges on Pascarella state of mind at the time he bludgeoned his father to death with a baseball bat, jurors in Ulster County Court on Friday listened to the testimony of two psychiatrists who offered conflicting opinions about the mental health of the defendant at the time of the killing.
The prosecution says it was a cold, calculated murder.
The defense has argued that Pascarella suffered a profound loss of self control after his young boy told him he had been abused by the elder Pascarella and authorities were unable to gather enough evidence to charge the older man with a crime.
Dr. Dominic Ferro, the psychiatrist hired by the defense, testified under questioning by Ulster County Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Kavanagh that in notes from interviews with Pascarella following his father’s death, the defendant said once he decided to kill his father, he felt a sense of “calm resolve”
and that “he carried that sense of calm through the events and after.”
Under questioning by Ulster County Assistant Public Defender MariAnn Connolly, Ferro said that sense of calm Pascarella described was really “detachment,” and that Pascarella “portraying himself as cool in his memory is not a totally accurate description of his demeanor at that time.”
Ferro has testified that Pascarella suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of a lifetime of physical and mental abuse at the hands of his father.
He has said that when Pascarella’s 4-year-old son told him Pascarella Sr. had “touched his peepee and his butt,” it stirred
up memories of his own abuse at the hands of his father that resulted in an extreme emotional disturbance that led to a profound loss of self control, which led him to kill his father.
Dr. Kevin Smith, the prosecution’s psychiatrist, testified that he was unable to determine whether Pascarella suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, mainly because he didn’t find Pascarella’s historical accounting of incidents in his life to be credible.
Under cross-examination, Smith conceded Pascarella exhibited numerous symptoms of PTSD but said he remained unable to say Pascarella suffered from the disorder because Pascarella did not say he
was experiencing enough of the symptoms to make that diagnosis.
Also under cross-examination, Smith rejected Ferro’s contention that Pascarella suffered from an extreme emotional disturbance and profound loss of self control, saying the defendant talked about planning the killing and making sure his wife and young son were set up in an apartment beforehand.
“He went there with a goal in mind and completed it,” Smith said.
Smith likened a profound loss of self control to a man who killed his wife after coming home and finding her in bed with his best friend, not a killing that occurred 10 months after an incident, such as the alleged abuse
of the 4-year-old.
Ferro testified that Pascarella’s actions weren’t planned in the traditional sense, but more were the result of a man who was becoming increasingly distraught over the allegations of abuse of his son, memories of his own abuse, his isolation from his family and a sense of helplessness over the situation.
“He was increasingly disturbed by his father being at liberty, being estranged by his family,” Ferro said.
“When this ‘plan’ came to him,” it seemed “like the only reasonable thing to do.”
The trial resumes Tuesday because the court is closed Monday for Columbus Day.