A second day of pre-trial hearings in the case of Christopher Porco revealed a glimpse of the hours of questioning by the Bethlehem Police Department and Porco’s calm demeanor throughout. Porcos’ over six and a half hours of questioning by Bethlehem Police was videotaped the night he was brought in to the station and the tapepresented as evidence in the hearing by the Albany County District Attorney’s office.
Porco is on trial for the murder of his father Peter Porco and the critical wounding of his mother Joan. Bethlehem Police escorted Porco from Albany Medical Center Hospital around 8 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2004, the night his mother was undergoing emergency treatment for ax wounds authorities believe her son inflicted the night before. During the six-and-one-half hours of questions, police played a game of cat and mouse trying to elicit information from Porco that might link him to the crime.
`I’m convinced you did it,` said Bethlehem Police Det. Charles Rudolph the night he questioned Porco.
`Was that a lie or the truth?` asked one of Porco’s attorneys, Laurie Shanks as he sat on the witness stand.
`That was a lie,` said Rudolph. `I wanted to see if he had a reaction.`
`Did you directly accuse him of the murder?` asked Shanks.
`Yes,` said Rudolph.
`More than once?` asked Shanks.
`I’m not sure,` Rudolph said.
Police then repeatedly prodded Porco to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence.
`Do I have to have a lawyer present for that?` Porco asked. `I want a lawyer present for that, because I’m not sure I’m being treated fairly.`
Bethlehem Police Detective Chris Bowdish continued to urge Porco to take a lie detector test.
`I want you to take it just to eliminate you, please,` said Bowdish.
`I’ll talk to a lawyer about it and make a decision,` said Porco. `I don’t have anything to hide.`
Police continued to push Porco during that night to the point where he denied any wrongdoing in the murder. State Police Investigator Roger Williams then entered the squad room where Porco is seated and continues to pepper Porco to take the polygraph.
`I was nowhere near my house and the bottom line is I would never do this, never,` said Porco. (The videotape continues.)
`Phone wires on a pole in the back of your house were cut and there were fingerprints on that pole,` said Bowdish to Porco. `Who do you think would do something like that?`
`I have no idea,` Porco said.
`You realize this is not a robbery, but a crime of emotions,` Bowdish told Porco.
`I don’t know how I could kill someone when I was that far away,` said Porco.
At this point in the hearing, that Joan Porco, sitting inside the courtroom listening to every detail looked concerned and began to shake her head.
State Police Investigator Williams’ continues to question Porco and after several hours of questioning, he asks why Porco would put his family through the ordeal of a trial and have them suffer.
`If I had done it and you came to me and said we had all this s*, then I would get a lawyer,` said Porco.
Meanwhile, a close family friend of the Porcos, attorney John Polster, took the stand and said he did indeed have an attorney/client relationship with Christopher Porco the night he spoke with him at the hospital before police arrived to escort Porco away for questions.
`I said Chris wanted me to represent him and not to question him until I get there,` said Polster. Polster followed police to the Bethlehem police station and waited several hours for detectives to allow him in to see Porco while he was being questioned.
`You never told him (Porco) that John Polster is waiting outside and has been there for the last three hours and 45 minutes,` asked Shanks to Detective Rudolph.
`No,` Rudolph responded.
Prosecutors then made it clear that Porco’s request for a lawyer came only after police asked for a polygraph test.
`At no point does Mr. Porco ask for an attorney other than when you ask him to take a polygraph test, is that correct?` asked Assistant District Attorney David Rossi.
`That’s correct,` said Rudolph.
`What did Mr. Porco say about Polster?` asked Rossi.
`He (Porco) said he is a lawyer, but just a friend and that he did not hire an attorney,` said Rudolph.
Shanks painted a different picture of the night police interrogated Porco. Shanks portrayed Porco as a young adult not read his Miranda Rights and not allowed to see his lawyer, who endured eight hours of questions from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. the next day; a person who asked to be able to see his mother several times during questioning and then was left to go free early in the morning with no ride and nowhere to go because his parents’ Brockley Drive home was now a crime scene.
`Did you ever tell him that when he was accused of murdering his father, that he has the right to an attorney?` asked Shanks.
`No,` said Bowdish. `I told him I wanted to communicate what his mother told me. I told him several times I would not lie to him.`
`But indeed you do lie to him (Porco) during the investigation,` said Shanks.
`Yes,` said Bowdish. `It is a tactic we use.`
`So you then told him his mother said that he did it,` said Shanks.
Porco then said, `My mother would never tell you I did it,` read Shanks from the videotaped transcript.
`Then you (Det. Bowdish) said `Are you calling your mother a liar?’`
`I would never call my mother a liar,` said Porco.
Testimony ended for the day with family friend John Polster on the stand. Polster and several other witnesses were expected to be called by the defense on the third day.
Meanwhile, Defense Attorney Terrence Kindlon filed a motion to disqualify lead prosecutors Michael McDermott and David Rossi from handling the case because of their involvement on the night of Porco’s questioning by police. McDermott and Rossi stated they were merely acting in an advisory capacity to the Bethlehem Police Department that evening. Kindlon stated they were in the room next to the squad room that night in case they were needed to be called as witnesses.
`Prosecutors shall not also simultaneously be witnesses, and in fact it is unethical to act as a witness and be the criminal prosecutor,` said Kindlon. `It is our intent to call Rossi and McDermott to testify`.
`At no time did we participate in the interview with Mr. Porco nor be present when it was conducted, nor were we present when he responded to questions,` said McDermott.
Judge Jeffrey Berry said it is common practice in law enforcement for district attorneys to be closely linked with police agencies when arrests are made.
`This six-plus hours of time has been preserved on videotape. The DA’s argument will suffice at this point in the hearing,` said Berry, declining Kindlon’s motion.“