Christie commutes sentence for woman who killed fiance
Jan. 18, 2018
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A former assistant prosecutor is puzzled why Chris Christie commuted the 40-year sentence of a convicted murderer days before the Republican left the governor's office.
Christie on Friday issued an order that led to the release of 50-year-old Lisa Pyatt from prison on Saturday. She was sentenced to serve at least 30 years in prison in 1993 for stabbing her fiance, Kevin McGowan, in the heart three days before their wedding in 1991.
Pyatt's lawyer, Kevin Young, used a battered woman's syndrome defense. Pyatt acted in self-defense when McGowan came home drunk and irritable, Young argued.
Former assistant Ocean County prosecutor William Cunningham tells the Asbury Park Press he proved Pyatt was not a victim and accused a previous boyfriend of domestic violence.
"Not only did I prove she was not a victim of domestic violence, but that she's as phony as the day is long," Cunningham said.
Christie's order did not explain why he commuted the sentence. Pyatt had applied and the state Parole Board had investigated, according to the order.
"I don't know the basis for it," Cunningham said.
Mitchell Ansell filed the application on Pyatt's behalf in 2011. Ansell believes Pyatt's self-defense claims and thinks her appellate attorney's failed her.
Paul Bergrin and Linus Farr were two of Pyatt's lawyers, according to Ansell. Bergrin was convicted in 2013 of arranging the murder of a witness in an unrelated case along with multiple drug-related charges. Bergrin was sentenced to multiple life terms in prison.
Farr was temporarily suspended from practicing law after he failed to file a relief appeal on Pyatt's behalf. He was later disbarred for gross neglect. Farr died from a drug overdose, Ansell said.
"She had some attorneys who we believe did not offer her proper assistance," said Ansell.
Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com