The Cape & Islands District Attorney's Office this week announced the denial of the third motion for a new trial in the Christa Worthington murder case. The basis for the motion which was entered in 2010 by convicted murderer Christopher McCowen's attorneys, was thoroughly investigated and disproved, according to District Attorney Michael O'Keefe.
Christa Worthington was found murdered in her Truro home on January 6, 2002. In November 16, 2006, a Barnstable jury found Christopher McCowen guilty of first degree murder. In 2010, according to the memorandum of decision written by Judge Gary Nickerson, the Supreme Judicial Court denied the first motion for a retrial and affirmed McCowen's conviction.
In October 2010, McCowen's attorneys--Robert A. George and Gary Pelletier--filed the third motion based on an allegation made against State Medical Examiner Dr. Henry M. Nields that Dr. Nields had "testified falsely at trial as to his credentials as a forensic pathologist."
The allegation was made in an affidavit of Dr. Stanton C. Kessler, accusing Dr. Nields of having forged signatures on his application for certification as a forensic pathologist. In his ruling, Judge Nickerson remarked that the unfounded and untrue allegations were "regrettably...publicized widely to the detriment of Dr. Nields."
State Police Capt. Christopher Mason was given the task of investigating the allegations and in August 2011 completed his investigation, finding the allegations to be completely without merit.
The ruling states that the Cape & Islands District Attorney's Office sought and was granted a hearing on the motion on January 27, 2014. "Fundamental fairness led me to ask the court to make a decision on this motion on its merits. I felt at the time it was filed it was a disgraceful attempt to malign a fine pathologist and an honorable man," said DA O'Keefe. The motion, according to O'Keefe only existed to smear Dr. Nields's reputation.
McCowen's attorney Gary Pelletier sought to withdraw the motion as Dr. Kessler had passed away in December 2011, admitting in court that he could not meet his "burden of proof on the motion".
Capt. Mason's findings were submitted to the court. His investigation revealed that Dr. Nields had in fact successfully completed the work in question and that Dr. Kessler's allegations of forgery were false, according to the ruling.
"One wonders why an accomplished medical professional would launch such a smear against a colleague," wrote Judge Nickerson. According to Capt. Mason's investigation, the reason appears to be revenge.
"This court finds the affidavit of Dr. Kessler in support of the defendant's third motion for a new trial is wholly without merit," the judge's ruling says.
The third motion was therefore denied on April 29, 2014. McCowen remains in prison.
McCowen's former attorney Robert George is currently serving a federal prison sentence for money laundering.