Court in AA Case Upholds Conviction
Jul. 18, 2002
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NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of a man who stabbed to death two doctors, finding it was fair to convict him using his confessions to fellow Alcoholics Anonymous members.
The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision of a Westchester County lower court judge who had ruled that conversations among AA participants should have been excluded from the trial of Paul Cox.
Judge Charles Brieant had concluded that the conversations were a form of confidential religious communication.
The appeals court stopped short of deciding whether AA conversations were protected as religious speech, saying the court record of the case failed to establish that Cox communicated with fellow AA members to seek spiritual guidance.
``Cox spoke with other AA members primarily to unburden himself, to seek empathy and emotional support and perhaps in some instances to seek practical guidance,'' the appeals court wrote. ``His communications at issue here would therefore not be privileged.''
Prosecutor Jeanine Pirro said the appeals court made the right ruling.
``This is a clear-cut case of a brutal double homicide with all the evidence to support it, including incriminating statements and bloody finger and palm prints,'' she said.
Cox was convicted in December 1994 on two counts of manslaughter in the 1988 stabbing deaths of Laksman Rao Chervu and his wife, Shanta Chervu, at their home. The crime went unsolved for four years. In November 1990, Cox joined Alcoholics Anonymous.
After becoming sober, the appeals court wrote, Cox increasingly suffered from dreams in which he experienced flashbacks, allowing him to recall that he had killed the couple.
He first confessed in a fit of tears to a fellow AA member who was his girlfriend. Between 1991 and 1993, Cox also confessed to a prospective roommate, the court said. The woman told police what Cox had said and he was arrested in May 1993.
Cox argued at trial that an alcoholic stupor drove him to break into the home, where he had lived as a child.
He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. The judge stayed Cox's release pending the appeal.
Cox's attorney, Robert Isseks, said he had not decided whether to appeal.