A state Supreme Court justice found a Centereach man guilty of second-degree murder Tuesday in the death of his fiancee's 90-year-old grandmother, rejecting the defendant's claim a seizure the day of the fatal beating barred him from being held criminally responsible.
Defense attorney Anthony La Pinta said Robert Waters, 24, had a seizure the night he attacked Florence Troiani and was not guilty by reason of mental defect in the June 21, 2011, beating.
According to trial evidence, Waters beat Troiani to the point where she suffered six broken bones in her back and a 21/2-inch rip in her heart.
Justice Fernando Camacho said there was no evidence to support the claim that when Waters killed Troiani "he was acting under the influence of true emotional disturbance."
Waters faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison when he returns to court March 4. La Pinta said he will appeal.
Two tests that were administered on Waters the day he killed Troiani, indicated he was susceptible to seizures but did not show he had one, -- a key defense claim, Camacho said.
"The type of findings indicate susceptibility. It doesn't mean the person had a seizure or that the person will ever have a seizure," he said.
La Pinta said "the defense presented a case that was compelling . . . we are disappointed."
Camacho said Waters spoke with police officers, emergency technicians and doctors in the hours after he killed Troiani and even recalled a few details.
The judge pointed to defense testimony by a neuropsychologist who said amnesia is something to be expected after an epileptic seizure.
A neurologist for the prosecution testified that if Waters had suffered a grand mal epileptic seizure the same day he killed Troiani, he would not have been capable of coordinated mental or physical activity.
Seizure sufferers are typically exhausted afterward, still and confused, with no memory of what happened and little ability to respond to questions, according to the neurologist.
Witness testimony also showed that pushing and shoving is more typical of the recovery phase of a seizure and any violence would come during restraint efforts.
A person recovering from a seizure is not capable of the "prolonged, organizational violence" that happened to Troiani, Camacho said.
Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock said after the trial, "The judge listened carefully to all the evidence and obviously is very well versed in the law and I believe clearly that he came to the correct verdict. I do believe that it's the exact same verdict that any jury would've come to as well."