Patricia Carbone doesn't have to imagine any of it. She lived it. Pete Shellem is a reporter for the Harrisburg, PA Patriot-News and as such, he followed Patricia Carbone's story for many years. His reports tell what happens when the criminal justice system makes the victim, the defendant.
by Pete Shellem
SOMERSET -- A Somerset County woman was freed from a life prison sentence yesterday, 14 years after rejecting a deal to plead guilty to manslaughter charges in the stabbing death of a man she claimed abducted her.
Patricia Carbone, 44, who had been imprisoned on a first-degree murder conviction, was released after pleading guilty to third-degree murder.
Judge John M. Cascio said the nearly 12 years Carbone spent in state prison for the slaying of Jerome Lint was enough time.
`It's time to close this case, for the Lint family and for you,` Cascio told Carbone in Somerset County Court.
Although Carbone 's attorney maintains she acted in self-defense when she stabbed Lint, who attacked another woman weeks before his death, he said the plea was the safest and fastest way to get her out of jail.
`The bottom line when I got into this was to get her out,` said Kevin Rozich, a Johnstown attorney who has represented Carbone free of charge since her 1985 conviction. `We accomplished that.`
Carbone claims Lint, 26, an unemployed outdoorsman, pulled her into his car and attacked her when she tried to flee. She stabbed him with a knife she kept in her purse after he tackled her on a secluded, dead-end road.
Carbone 's story was supported by physical evidence and independent witnesses, and in part by police, who confirmed she and Lint did not know each other prior to the June 9, 1984, attack.
Despite the facts of the case, Carbone yesterday delivered a tearful apology to Lint's family:
`If you can't
find it in your hearts to forgive me, I understand. I just know that it
was a terrible terrible thing that happened and I
Lint's widow and family declined comment after the brief proceeding.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Paul E. von Geis, who prosecuted the case because Carbone 's trial attorney is now Somerset County's district attorney, said the family agreed to the deal.
granted a new trial in January by a panel of state Superior Court judges,
who said evidence that Lint had attacked
A chance encounter
Rozich had in 1996 with a former police officer who said she had offered
to testify for Carbone refuted the
Kathy Potter told Rozich that Lint grabbed her in a Johnstown bar weeks before the incident with Carbone . She said she had to fend him off with a pistol an hour later when he confronted her while she was getting in her car in a dark parking lot.
She was never called as a witness after the presiding judge told Carbone 's trial attorney he would not want every women that he ever tried to pick up in a bar to testify against him.
The state attorney general's office appealed to the state Supreme Court, saying Rozich should have known about Potter's testimony, even though she was not named in the trial transcript.
The office withdrew that appeal last month, about six weeks after an extensive article on the case appeared in The Patriot-News.
In that article, two nationally known forensic pathologists who reviewed the case for The Patriot-News poked holes in another key piece of evidence.
A prosecution pathologist told the jury that with the fatal wound to his heart, Lint could not have made it the 35 yards to his car, where his body was found two days later.
Dr. Michael Baden, director of forensic sciences for the New York State Police, and Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht said that conclusion was wrong.
Rozich applauded the decision to put the case to rest.
`It's encouraging that an agency like the attorney general's office had the courage to say enough is enough,` he said.
At most, Rozich said, the case amounted to voluntary manslaughter -- a position supported by a half-dozen judges of Pennsylvania's Superior Court, which sent the case back to Somerset County twice, most recently in January.
David J. Flower,
the district attorney who prosecuted the case, apparently agreed. He offered
Carbone a 5-to-10-year deal to
While immediately freeing Carbone yesterday, Cascio ordered her to serve seven years of probation, saying the system must monitor her transition to freedom.
He said Carbone 's conduct in prison and her efforts at continuing her education show she accepted her responsibility in the case, which he said would make a good study for law students.
nothing anybody can do to correct the wrong that happened here,` Cascio
said. `It is my hope that you will be
The judge told her she would carry the stigma of the incident for the rest of her life and that people in the community would recognize her as the woman who killed a man.
Carbone said she had no problems in the community when she was freed for two years by a state Superior Court order, which was overturned in 1990 by the state Supreme Court.
`But I carried
how I felt in my heart,` she said yesterday after her release. `I'm the
one that looks at me every day and says,
by Pete Shellem
When she fended off
a stranger who she says dragged her into his car, drove to a secluded road
and tackled her as she ran away,
She knew she
wounded him with a knife she kept in her purse for protection, but she
still fled in terror as the man got to his feet
She said she didn't realize he was dead until the police called her three days later.
She also didn't know that the real nightmare had just begun.
Today Carbone , 44, sits in the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, where she's served 12 years of a life term.
She waits, wondering
if an appellate court's recent reversal of her first-degree murder conviction
for the second time in 10 years
Charged with murder in the 1984 killing of 26-year-old Jerome Lint, an unemployed outdoorsman, she turned down a 5- to 10-year plea agreement to voluntary manslaughter, believing her peers would understand her actions.
The Somerset County jury didn't.
After a 1985
trial where Lint's widow and family, along with their priest and neighbors,
portrayed him as a religious, law-abiding
conceded the two didn't know each other and offered little evidence of
a motive, except to suggest Carbone was
But the prosecutor
argued that Carbone 's failure to call police after the attack, combined
with evidence of Lint's character, showed
Now, evidence has surfaced showing Lint wasn't the shy, peace-loving man portrayed in court.
An off-duty female
police officer says Lint approached her in a Johnstown bar weeks before
his encounter with Carbone , and grabbed
A state Superior Court panel decided in January that the evidence should be presented to a jury and ordered a new trial.
But the state
Attorney General's Office, which took over the case in 1996 after Carbone
's trial attorney, Jerry Spangler, was elected
Sean Connolly, spokesman for Attorney General Mike Fisher, said the office could not comment because the case is in litigation.
But in a petition
to the state Supreme Court, the office argued there is sufficient evidence
to support the conviction and that Carbone's appeals attorney, Kevin Rozich,
should have been aware of the witness, even though her full story and name
were never mentioned
The office has challenged Rozich's motion to free Carbone on bail.
if Carbone committed any crime, it was at most voluntary manslaughter,
a determination that the Superior Court made
`There is no
way in hell this is a first-degree murder case,` said Rozich, who has been
representing Carbone for free for the past 13
The 12 years that Carbone has served at Muncy is more than double the maximum sentence she could have received for a manslaughter conviction.
In the meantime, her mother has died and her daughter has grown up.
Carbone says she has learned a lesson from her experience with Pennsylvania's justice system.
`If I was ever
in a situation like this again I would never, ever lift a hand to protect
myself,` Carbone said in an interview at Muncy. `If I'm hurt, I'm hurt.
If I die, I die.`
While Carbone 's story of abduction, struggle and escape appears to be supported by much of the circumstantial evidence, observers in the courtroom during her 1985 trial said her flat, emotionless demeanor on the stand may have lost the case for her.
Some said she came off as `trailer trash` as she told this story:
Living in public
housing since her divorce from an abusive husband in 1981, Carbone decided
to walk to a local tavern to meet friends
Night had fallen
in Windber when a man in a tiny Honda Civic pulled up to her as she was
walking along the road, swung open his
She declined the ride, but as she continued walking, he pulled in front of her again.
This time, when
she leaned into the passenger door to tell him to leave her alone, the
driver grabbed her hair and pulled her partway
Still holding her hair, he began drifting forward, and Carbone, terrified, pulled herself into the car.
As she begged him not to hurt her, he just drove. He finally said his name was Terry and he was returning home from a fishing trip.
Carbone told him she was expected at her father's house. She told him she knew karate. If he let her go, she wouldn't tell anyone.
`But I was talking
and it was like he wasn't there, he wasn't paying attention,` she testified.
`He just seemed so, like numb, numb
When he finally said he would take her back to Windber, she calmed down, but became hysterical when he went past the turn and drove down a secluded dirt road.
When the road
dead-ended at several boulders, Carbone jumped from the car as it stopped
and began running. Her shoe fell off. She
By the time he grabbed her and pushed her to the ground, she had the knife in her hand.
As he laid on
top of her, grabbing at her clothing, she flailed at him with the knife.
She thought it was stuck in his clothing because
But suddenly he stopped the attack and eased off her.
She testified that she began screaming at him to give her a ride back home, but lost her courage when he advanced again.
`I thought I was done for because nothing seemed to phase him, and I was scared all over again,` she said.
She bolted through
the woods toward headlights and out onto a highway, where bloody and still
holding the knife, she flagged down a
would later testify that Carbone was hysterically screaming for help, saying
`he's going to kill me.` Scared himself,
told her to get on the hood of the car, and drove her to the first house
with lights. As she was on the hood, Varner
The Varners dropped her off about a mile away near the home of Clyde and Elena Boyer, who had just finished a backyard barbecue.
Carbone said she didn't want to frighten the Boyers as she had the Varners. She put the knife in her purse, straightened her clothes and told them she had a fight with her boyfriend. She explained the blood on her blouse and skirt by saying she hit him in the nose. She still expressed fear he might be after her.
The Boyers let her wash up and offered her a ride home. On the way there, Mrs. Boyer agreed to stop to pick up her missing shoe. She testified Carbone expressed surprise that the car was still there and, fearful, they left without looking for the shoe.
When she got
home about 11 p.m., Carbone went to the baby-sitter's house to get her
daughter but they weren't home yet. Crying, she called her boyfriend Donald
Nadonley and got no answer. She took a bath and called him again. He picked
her up and took her to a
At the club, she kept going to the restroom to throw up. When Nadonley expressed concern, she told him what had happened. He told her to go to the police. She later told her baby-sitter what happened with the same result.
The next day
she went with Nadonley to a charity motorcycle run where she told three
more friends, who also suggested she go to
She says she was too scared to go to police.
left, Nadonley testified, they went back to the scene, where they found
her hairbrush. He said they didn't go near the car,
The driver of
the car, Jerome Lint, was found by his brothers Monday evening after a
daylong search when he failed to return home
decomposing body was slumped over in the drivers seat with knife wounds
in his left back and side, consistent with
handle to the drivers' door was smudged with his blood. There was blood
smeared over the inside of the drivers' door.
A woman's white canvas shoe was found to the rear of the car.
Lint's wife later testified she last saw him around 7 a.m. Saturday when he told her he would be fishing into the evening and she gave him $35. Only $18 in change was found in the car.
On Tuesday morning
Carbone received a call at Nadonley's apartment. It was the State Police.
They were at her parents' home
After she told them her story, turned over her clothes and the knife, they charged her with homicide.
Police said their investigation determined that the pair didn't know each other prior to the encounter.
Carbone still shudders and breaks down when she reflects on that night.
`I often think
if I had just let him rape me,` she said in the interview, sobbing. `But
all of the terror I had seen at the hands of
She said if she could talk to Lint, `I would tell him I'm really sorry, but I'd ask him why.
`He had a wife
that loved him. He had children. I don't know if he ever gave thought to
how he would feel if someone did that to his
How did Lint pull her into the car and begin driving away in a car with a manual transmission?
Why weren't Carbone 's clothes torn or dirty, except for a grass stain on her shoulder?
Why couldn't police find the flattened out grass or any other sign of a struggle?
Why did she tell the Boyer's that she had a fight with her boyfriend?
Why didn't she go to police?
used Carbone 's conviction in his successful campaign that year for district
attorney and later in his unsuccessful run for
strongest piece of evidence Flower had to challenge Carbone 's story was
the testimony of a pathologist who said Lint
Dr. Karl Williams didn't completely rule out the possibility, but told the jury Lint's wound would be almost instantly fatal.
But that testimony is disputed by two nationally recognized pathologists who reviewed the case for The Patriot-News.
`I've seen many
people with this type of stab wound who got to the hospital who were treated
and survived if it was done in time,` said
Baden is perhaps
best known for his HBO television series, `Autopsy.` He currently serves
as director of forensic sciences for
in Lint's case was corroborated by Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht,
who also has worked on numerous
`There are documented cases of people walking and running after being stabbed or shot in the heart,` Wecht said, adding that someone could be alive for up to a six minutes, and conscious for up to a minute.
is also contradicted by blood drops found outside the car and a smear of
blood on the driver's door handle, which put
President Judge Charles H. Coffroth instructed the jury that Williams'
opinion should be considered `low grade`
pointed out there was `ample evidence` of self defense as a motive, and
dismissed Flower's claim of evidence of a
He said the
mere fact that Carbone didn't go to police was not evidence of her guilt.
He pointed out that although the prosecution
`From her standpoint, she may have regarded it as an unreported rape,` Coffroth said in his charge to the jury.
asked the judge to rule out murder as an option for the jury, said he never
thought the evidence could sustain a
`Not until I
saw that jury coming back,` said Spangler.
At trial, Flower used eight character witnesses to portray Lint as a man who was `shy and very backward around women in particular and people in general.`
He was remembered as an avid outdoorsman and a family man who took care of his two children while his wife worked as a pharmacist.
His widow, Danna,
who sat beside Flower about four feet from the jury throughout the trial,
testified `he was a very quiet, calm
Rozich said the testimony about Lint's character biased the jury against Carbone before she even took the stand.
`My opinion is after that widow got down off the stand, and said how her husband left home and never came back, once she testified, I think the case was over for Patty . Emotion overcame logic.`
Spangler's only witness was Carbone .
over his defense in a sidebar conference with Coffroth, he said he wanted
to present a woman who had contacted the
and Coffroth, clearly misunderstanding the offer, said, `I'd hate to be
on trial for murder and have them introduce
Spangler would later testify that he took Coffroth's remark as a legal ruling against introducing her testimony.
But in a chance
meeting 1996 after he had been representing Carbone for more than 11 years,
former police officer Kathy Potter
She said she
knew Lint from a bar called Del's Cabaret in Johnstown. She had seen him
there numerous times harassing women.
When she rebuffed him, he grabbed her arm and turned her around. Someone told him to leave her alone.
About an hour
later when Potter and her friend left the bar, she heard footsteps behind
her as she was walking to bar's gravel parking
`I told him
to back off,` Potter would later testify at a 1996 hearing. `He continued
to approach me. I'm not easily intimidated,
She said she told him she was a police officer and threatened to `rearrange his genitalia,` but Lint just stood there.
`He put his hand on the side of my car and just stood there looking at me,` she testified.
She eventually pulled her revolver, got into her car and drove off, to see Lint walking back into the bar.
Lint's father, Roy, contacted last week, said Potter's testimony must be false because his son never drank.
been in a bar,` Roy Lint said. `He'd never even go in for change to get
a soda out of a machine. He didn't believe in going
But Lint's impression
of his son is contradicted by his autopsy, which shows his blood-alcohol
level was approaching the legal limit
An attempt to contact Lint's wife, who has since remarried, was unsuccessful.
At the 1996
Post Conviction Relief Act hearing over Potter's testimony, Rozich suggested
that Lint's family was hiding their
`What struck me was that he was supposed to be home at 9 o'clock,` Rozich told Somerset County Judge John M. Cascio. `When he didn't come home, she didn't call the police . . . She didn't even call the police the next morning when he didn't show up. She did not report him as a missing person until Monday morning.
`Was it because
he was not the peaceful, loving father, the non-aggressive person that
the prosecution claimed, but that this
Cascio that all the judges who have reviewed Carbone 's case have been
looking for a reason to set things straight.
Coffroth and another Somerset County judge who ruled on post-trial motions agreed the prosecution did not disprove self defense.
But citing a
series of state Supreme Court decisions from the 1970s that say the mere
act of taking a deadly weapon to a vital
Months after Carbone 's conviction, Flower became district attorney and hired Spangler as an assistant.
At the behest
of Mary Parks, a television reporter who covered the case, Rozich, a Johnstown
trial attorney, took over the appeals for
In 1988, Rozich
convinced a divided Superior Court that if Carbone was guilty of anything,
it was voluntary manslaughter. The court, in
Vincent A. Cirrillo, writing for the majority, said there were only two
bases for the jury to reject Carbone 's
In either case, the court reasoned that would amount to no more than voluntary manslaughter.
freed on bail to await the new trial, while Flower, joined by the Philadelphia
District Attorney's Office, appealed to
Carbone moved in with her father, Ralph, and took partial custody of her daughter, Amy Lynne, who then was 11. She attended Cambria Rowe Business College for a two-year associate degree in accounting.
In May 1990,
weeks before the end of her third semester, her father picked her up from
school and drove her home. Once inside, he
It was Rozich.
The state Supreme
Court had reinstated her conviction. The authorities would pick her up
that evening to return her to Muncy.
Former Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, writing for a unanimous court, said the Superior Court should have reviewed the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution as the verdict winner.
The jury's determination
of Carbone 's believability should not be disturbed, Larsen wrote, adding
that there was sufficient evidence to
`The same court that was willing to set her free put her back in prison and threw out the remaining issues,` Rozich said.
The case seemed hopeless. Then he found Potter.
At the hearing
in 1996, Spangler produced notes of interviews with Potter that were never
turned over to Rozich. The notes never
with Deputy Attorney General Paul Von Geis that Rozich should have been
on notice of Kathy Potter, even though her
When the case
reached Superior Court the second time, Cirrillo, in a 2-1 decision, ruled
in no uncertain terms, ordering a new trial. He lambasted Spangler for
not making a better effort to introduce Potter's testimony and the court
for saying there were no more
General's Office has asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Superior Court
once again. That court has not yet
A hearing was held in June on a motion filed by Rozich to get her out of Muncy on bail, but Cascio still hasn't ruled.
she still has faith that God and the legal system will set things straight.
If offered a deal to plead to a lesser
`At first it
felt like I would be selling my soul to do this, but after all this time,
I've come to know in my heart that God knows me,
murder had nothing to do with what happened that night.`