Harrisburg, PA

Patricia Carbone

Imagine you're a woman, dragged into a stranger's car, driven to a secluded area and raped.  Imagine that during this ordeal you manage to get a knife out of your purse and stab your assailant, allowing you to escape.  Then imagine you are convicted of murdering your rapist.  After 12 years in prison, your conviction overturned, then reinstated, imagine you're desperate enough for freedom to plead guilty to 3rd degree murder.  

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. 


 

10/30/98
Woman freed from life term in slaying
She claims self-defense, but pleads to 3rd-degree murder after serving 12 years in jail

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
do grieve with you and for you.`

   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.

   Carbone was granted a new trial in January by a panel of state Superior Court judges, who said evidence that Lint had attacked
another woman should have been presented to the jurors deciding Carbone 's fate.

   A chance encounter Rozich had in 1996 with a former police officer who said she had offered to testify for Carbone refuted the
prosecution's portrayal of Lint as a religious, law-abiding family man.

   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
manslaughter before the case went to trial in 1984.

   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.

   `Certainly there's nothing anybody can do to correct the wrong that happened here,` Cascio said. `It is my hope that you will be
able to put that aside and live a life that is exemplary.`

   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,
'There's that woman.' I only say that because I know so many people have been hurt by this. It will come from me more than from the community.
 


08/02/98
Why is this woman still in prison?

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,
Patty Carbone thought she had survived every woman's worst nightmare.

   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
and told her to calm down.

   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
will finally win her freedom.

   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
family man, Carbone was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

   The prosecution conceded the two didn't know each other and offered little evidence of a motive, except to suggest Carbone was
upset with her boyfriend and had robbed Lint of $35 his wife gave him when he left on a fishing trip.

   But the prosecutor argued that Carbone 's failure to call police after the attack, combined with evidence of Lint's character, showed
she was the aggressor.

   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
her arm when she declined his advances. She eventually ended up fending him off at gunpoint when he approached her in the parking lot of the tavern.

   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
Somerset County district attorney, is insisting that it is too late to bring in the new witness.

   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
in the trial.

   The office has challenged Rozich's motion to free Carbone on bail.

   Rozich said if Carbone committed any crime, it was at most voluntary manslaughter, a determination that the Superior Court made
in a reversed 1988 opinion.

   `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
years.

   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.`
 
-- HURT BY HER DEMEANOR
 
   Only Carbone and Lint know what happened on a dark, dead-end to a dirt road near Windber shortly after nightfall on Saturday June 9, 1984.

   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
when she learned her boyfriend was not picking her up until after 11 p.m.

   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
passenger door and told her a nice looking girl shouldn't be out walking alone.

   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
into the car and said `are you sure you don't want this ride.`

   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
to everything.`

   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
reached into her purse for a knife, but withdrew a brush, which she dropped to the ground.

   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
he didn't cry out.

   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
passing car.

   Daniel Varner would later testify that Carbone was hysterically screaming for help, saying `he's going to kill me.` Scared himself,
Varner would not allow her into the car, where his wife was screaming to leave and his two children sat crying in the back seat.

   Instead Varner 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
said, she seemed to compose herself.

   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
nightclub.

   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
authorities.

   She says she was too scared to go to police.

   Before they left, Nadonley testified, they went back to the scene, where they found her hairbrush. He said they didn't go near the car,
but Carbone showed him an area of matted down grass where she said the struggle occurred. He also said she had scratches on her legs and bruises on her thighs and buttocks.

   The driver of the car, Jerome Lint, was found by his brothers Monday evening after a daylong search when he failed to return home
from a fishing trip that Saturday. The car was parked in one of his favorite spots.

   His bloated, decomposing body was slumped over in the drivers seat with knife wounds in his left back and side, consistent with
Carbone 's claim that he was on top of her when she stabbed at him with the knife in her right hand.

   The outside handle to the drivers' door was smudged with his blood. There was blood smeared over the inside of the drivers' door.
There were a few drops of blood outside the car.

   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
and wanted to speak to her.

   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
(her abusive ex-husband) and all the times I felt like I was going to die came back to me. This was all that and more.`

   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
mother, his sister, or his wife.`
 
-- THERE WERE QUESTIONS
 
   There were problems with Carbone 's story at the 1985 trial, and Somerset County Assistant District Attorney David J. Flower pointedly highlighted them for the jury.

   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?

   Flower, who used Carbone 's conviction in his successful campaign that year for district attorney and later in his unsuccessful run for
judge, said he didn't remember the case that well and declined comment last month.

   Perhaps the strongest piece of evidence Flower had to challenge Carbone 's story was the testimony of a pathologist who said Lint
would not have been able to make it back to his car and open the door with a stab wound to the heart.

   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
Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner for New York City. `I've seen people with worse wounds than that go more than 35 yards.`

   Baden is perhaps best known for his HBO television series, `Autopsy.` He currently serves as director of forensic sciences for
the New York State Police, and was the chairman of the forensic pathology panel of the Select Committee on Assassinations, which
investigated the slayings of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

   Baden's opinion in Lint's case was corroborated by Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht, who also has worked on numerous
high-profile deaths.

   `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.

   Williams' claim is also contradicted by blood drops found outside the car and a smear of blood on the driver's door handle, which put
Lint outside the car before he died.

   Somerset County President Judge Charles H. Coffroth instructed the jury that Williams' opinion should be considered `low grade`
evidence, considering the physical evidence. 

   Coffroth also pointed out there was `ample evidence` of self defense as a motive, and dismissed Flower's claim of evidence of a
robbery.

   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
argued that it was the normal reaction of a woman who has been sexually assaulted to report it to the police, a large percentage do
not.

   `From her standpoint, she may have regarded it as an unreported rape,` Coffroth said in his charge to the jury.

   Spangler, who asked the judge to rule out murder as an option for the jury, said he never thought the evidence could sustain a
first-degree murder conviction.

   `Not until I saw that jury coming back,` said Spangler.
 
-- LINT FREQUENTED BAR
 
Once a murder defendant raises self defense, the burden shifts to the prosecution to disprove that claim beyond a reasonable doubt. The victim's character can then become an issue to show whether he has a tendency toward violence.

   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
peaceful young man` who was `almost innocent at times.`

   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 .

   While going over his defense in a sidebar conference with Coffroth, he said he wanted to present a woman who had contacted the
defense and said Lint tried to pick her up in a bar.

   Flower objected and Coffroth, clearly misunderstanding the offer, said, `I'd hate to be on trial for murder and have them introduce
against me all the girls I tried to pick up.`

   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
told Rozich she was the witness and there was much more to her story.

   She said she knew Lint from a bar called Del's Cabaret in Johnstown. She had seen him there numerous times harassing women.
Several weeks before he was killed, Potter said Lint had approached and asked `what is your sign?`

   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
lot. When she turned, Lint was standing behind her.

   `I told him to back off,` Potter would later testify at a 1996 hearing. `He continued to approach me. I'm not easily intimidated,
but he frightened me.`

   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.

   `He'd never 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
into bars. He didn't want to bother with people drinking.`

   But Lint's impression of his son is contradicted by his autopsy, which shows his blood-alcohol level was approaching the legal limit
for driving. There were also empty beer cans in his car.

   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
knowledge of another side to him.

   `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
wasn't the first time that something like this happened and that's why the police weren't called until two days later?`

   Rozich told Cascio that all the judges who have reviewed Carbone 's case have been looking for a reason to set things straight.
   `Kathy Potter, Your Honor, is that reason,` Rozich argued. `She is the reason that Patricia Carbone should have a new trial . . . The
defense failed to investigate her; they failed to give a proper offer of proof,and it's time that Patty be given the opportunity to do so.`
 
-- LOTS OF JUDICIAL REVIEW
 
   The entire Somerset County bench, 12 Superior Court judges and seven justices of the state Supreme Court have looked at Carbone's conviction.

   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
organ is enough to the prove the premeditation and malice necessary for a first-degree murder verdict, the judges upheld her conviction
in 1985.

   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
free. He says Carbone sends him $10 a month out of her $40 prison salary.

   In 1988, Rozich convinced a divided Superior Court that if Carbone was guilty of anything, it was voluntary manslaughter. The court, in
a 5-4 decision, sent the case back to Somerset County for a new trial on manslaughter charges.

   President Judge Vincent A. Cirrillo, writing for the majority, said there were only two bases for the jury to reject Carbone 's
justification defense -- that her claim she was in danger of death or injury was unreasonable, or that she used excessive force by failing
to warn Lint she would use the knife.

   In either case, the court reasoned that would amount to no more than voluntary manslaughter.

   Carbone was freed on bail to await the new trial, while Flower, joined by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, appealed to
the Supreme Court.

   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
listened to his answering machine.

   It was Rozich.

   The state Supreme Court had reinstated her conviction. The authorities would pick her up that evening to return her to Muncy.
   `I felt like I was exploding into a zillion little pieces,` Carbone said. `I knew how it would effect Amy and Dad.`

   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
prove malice. The high court sent the case back to Superior Court to resolve the remaining issues. The intermediate court then upheld the conviction.

   `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
mentioned the incident in the parking lot, but merely said Lint been obnoxious in the bar.

   Cascio agreed with Deputy Attorney General Paul Von Geis that Rozich should have been on notice of Kathy Potter, even though her
name was never mentioned in the transcript. The judge ruled Rozich had waived the issue since he didn't address it on direct appeal.

   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
`loopholes` for Carbone to squeeze through.

   The Attorney General's Office has asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Superior Court once again. That court has not yet
decided if it will review the case.

   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.

   Carbone says she still has faith that God and the legal system will set things straight. If offered a deal to plead to a lesser
charge for time served, she says she would take it this time.

   `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,
he knows my heart, he knows what was in the heart of that man that night. He knows what happened,` she said.

   `First-degree murder had nothing to do with what happened that night.`
 


 
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