DiMeo weeps as jury weighs death sentence in Fairfield homicide case
Christopher DiMeo agreed to take a life term for the murder of a New York jeweler to spare the woman who gave him life.
It was a stunning revelation Wednesday in Bridgeport Superior Court, where a jury is deciding whether DiMeo should be executed for the 2005 killing of Fairfield jewelers Tim and Kim Donnelly. So stunning that on hearing his former New York lawyer testify about it, DiMeo began sobbing loudly.
"I had never been in a situation where a defendant had taken a plea to a life term so that his mother would get a break," the lawyer, Mitchell Dinnerstein, said.
DiMeo put his left hand over his eyes and began sobbing loudly. So loud that Superior Court Judge Robert Devlin called a recess.
Later, outside the presence of the jury, DiMeo's lawyer, Michael Courtney, chastised the judge for calling the recess so that the jury couldn't see his client cry.
"I was not trying to shield the defendant's demeanor from the jury," Devlin retorted. "He was openly weeping for some minutes, but when it became a distraction to the jury it was incumbent on the court to give him time to compose himself."
The jury that last month found DiMeo guilty of fatally shooting the Donnellys on Feb. 2, 2005, in their Post Road jewelry store is now hearing evidence to decide whether he should get the death penalty.
Dinnerstein represented DiMeo before a New York court in the 2004 murder of a Long Island jeweler. DiMeo's mother, Maryann Taylor, had been arrested for casing the jewelry store for her son.
In June 2005, Dinnerstein said DiMeo agreed to plead guilty to the crime and take a life sentence on the condition that the charges be reduced against his mother and instead of a life term she would get 15 years in prison.
During the plea hearing the New York judge told DiMeo his guilty plea could help him with the Donnelly case.
"I was hoping somebody in Connecticut would look at it so they would understand who they were dealing with," Dinnerstein continued. "That somebody in Connecticut would read about how Chris realized how stupid he had behaved."
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Corradino tried to get before the jury a statement DiMeo made at the time of his sentencing in which he blamed his circumstances on his drug use. But Courtney objected and the judge wouldn't allow it before the jury. Corradino characterized the statement outside the presence of the jury as, "Two or three sentences of I'm sorry and the rest is woe is me."
The defense lawyers also called to the stand DiMeo's fifth-grade teacher who called him a cute kid. "We used to have children that we would say we were going to see them on the front cover of Newsday someday, but Christopher wasn't one of those."
His sixth-grade principal said, "I saw him as a kind of lonely kid," and a psychologist detailed DiMeo's mother's extensive drug use.
Dr. Tracy Grossman said Maryann Taylor was mainly concerned with herself and only mentioned DiMeo during treatment interviews in the 1990s to complain that he had acted up.
Much of the morning in court was spent with defense lawyers trying to exploit a loophole in the law.
In order to persuade the jury DiMeo should get the death penalty, prosecutors must prove an aggravating factor that DiMeo had previously been convicted of a serious crime. They can't use his conviction for killing the Long Island jeweler because that conviction occurred after he was charged with the Donnelly murders so they have to rely on a 2001 conviction for attempted robbery of a Best Buy store on Long Island.
The defense lawyers failed last week to get a New York judge to throw out that conviction, so instead they are trying to persuade this jury to rule it out.
Michael Miller was the security guard at the Best Buy when DiMeo attempted to walk out with several video games under his shirt. At the time he told police DiMeo hit him in the face when Miller tried to stop DiMeo.
But on the witness stand Wednesday, Miller said that it was all a misunderstanding and DiMeo didn't hit him.
Under cross examination by Corradino, Miller said he had gotten a call from DiMeo's defense team telling him the conviction was being used as an argument to give DiMeo the death penalty.
"I didn't want my case to be the reason for him to get the death penalty," he added.