Jury Finds Man Guilty - Again Andrew Byrne Was Convicted In 1992 Of Killing His Wife. The State Supreme Court Ordered A New Trial.

Posted: October 30, 1997

The second trial of Andrew Byrne for the murder of his wife ended the same way as the first. A Chester County Court jury found him guilty of first-degree murder yesterday and he was immediately sentenced to life in prison.

``It was the highlight of my year,'' said Christian Caramanica, who watched President Judge Thomas Gavin sentence Byrne for strangling 30-year-old Leona Caramanica. Christian Caramanica, the victim's brother, and at least 19 other family members had kept vigil in the front rows of the courtroom since the trial began last week.

They embraced, cried and smiled when the verdict of guilty came back.

Byrne, 35, a former security guard, had been arguing with his wife on July 10, 1991, the day he told authorities he found her dead, slumped in a chair with a bookcase leaning against her in their East Goshen apartment.

An autopsy showed she had been strangled.

The jury rejected the defense argument that Caramanica, who had just graduated from law school, might have been killed by a burglar, or that she died of an accident, as Byrne had told the Caramanica family.

The jury could have found Byrne guilty of third-degree murder or manslaughter and had asked the judge to define the difference before it reached a decision after about three hours of deliberation.

Caramanica's relatives held hands and their breath as members of the jury took their seats. Not a sound could be heard until a court clerk asked the jury's forewoman for the panel's decision.

``Guilty,'' she responded.

``Thank God,'' declared one of Caramanica's relatives.

Byrne showed no emotion as Gavin sentenced him and a bailiff clasped handcuffs around his wrists. He had been free on $150,000 bail.

The Caramanica family embraced. ``This was our sister who was killed and we had a lot of emotions,'' said another brother, Rodger Caramanica. He said the family realized Byrne could be acquitted, but maintained their faith in Prosecutor Patrick Carmody.

The trial had been watched closely by those in Chester County's legal community as Carmody, a chief deputy for the district attorney, and Assistant District Attorney Daria Tecco, went against one of the county's top defense attorneys, John Duffy.

This was the second time Byrne had been prosecuted by Carmody and defended by Duffy. A jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in 1992, but the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial because of errors made the first time. Five witnesses had been allowed to testify they heard Caramanica talk of her husband's temper and abuse. The Supreme Court ruled those witnesses should not have been allowed to testify.

Although this week's trial was more subdued than the first, both attorneys presented their sides with great vigor.

``The stakes were so high in this case,'' Carmody said. ``The Caramanicas were put through an emotional grinder.''

Caramanica's mother, Mariann, is raising the couple's two children, Ari Ann, who was 3 when Leona Caramanica died in 1991, and Travis, who was 4 months old.

During Duffy's closing argument yesterday, he tried to convince the jury that detectives and prosecutors were ``men of great zeal'' who made a snap judgment about Byrne, built a case to prove his guilt, and did not look for other suspects.

Carmody pointed out that more than 130 people were interviewed before Byrne was arrested until a month after the murder. Byrne, he said, lost his temper and choked his wife for at least three minutes before she died.

``He could have stopped any time,'' Carmody said, his voice rising and cracking as he turned to face Byrne. The prosecutor stepped across the courtroom with his eyes fixed on the defendant. ``He could have stopped any time and he just kept doing it.''

Carmody paused to regain his composure as he addressed the jury one last time about the strangulation.

``That's an intentional deliberate murder. That's first-degree murder,'' he said. ``You have the evidence to hold this man responsible for his actions.''

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