May 25, 2012

Judge to allow claims of abuse in Licata murder trial

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN -- Claims by Angelo Licata that prior physical or sexual abuse by his father led him to kill the older man last summer will be allowed as evidence at his murder trial next month, a judge said Thursday.

click image to enlarge

HEARING: Murder defendant Angelo Licata, right, sits with his attorneys Peter Barnett, left, and Francis Griffin during a hearing in Somerset County Superior Court in Skowhegan on Thursday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

Licata, 33, of Detroit, is charged with murder in the bludgeoning death of his father, Alfred Licata, 63, in Cambridge.

The trial is set to begin in Somerset County Superior Court on June 25. A judge will decide the verdict because Licata waived his right to a jury trial.

Licata has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Justice John Nivison said Thursday that testimony of prior abuse would be admissible if Angelo Licata and his lawyers can show that the alleged abuse when he was a child affected his state of mind at the time of his father's death.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case, said the judge would have to sift through the allegations of abuse to determine if Angelo Licata was fearful, angry or had acted in what he felt was self-defense.

In a motion to exclude the evidence of abuse as a reason for murder, Benson said events that may have happened years earlier have no relevance on the charge.

Peter Barnett, who is representing Licata, told the judge Thursday that evidence of prior abuse is relevant to the case and admissible as evidence.

Barnett said his client's anger and fear at the time of his father's death could also be considered the lesser charge of manslaughter, not murder, but Nivison did not address any change in the charge Thursday.

Benson said he will challenge claims that abuse actually happened, but added that if Licata had believed that his father was about to use deadly force on him -- whether real or imagined -- it could be considered manslaughter.

"If they generate enough credible evidence to suggest that he was acting under the influence of extreme anger or extreme fear brought about by adequate provocation, that makes it manslaughter instead of murder," Benson said. "We have to see what the evidence is going to be."

Nivison also ruled that testimony by others about the elder Licata's alleged abuse, Angelo Licata's mother, for example, could also be allowed at trial if statements can be tied to his state of mind at the time of death.

Alfred Licata was found dead on a lawn near his home on Ham Hill Road the night of July 21.

His wife, Arlene, told police she heard banging and yelling coming from the first floor of the house and found blood all over the kitchen.

She dialed 911 from a neighbor's house and, as she left her home, saw her son Angelo's vehicle still in the driveway, according to court documents. The Office of State Medical Examiner said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Angelo Licata turned himself in at the Waterville Police Department. He remains held at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison as he awaits trial.

Doug Harlow -- 612-2367

dharlow@centralmaine.com

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