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Court upholds son's murder conviction

ALBANY -- New York's top court yesterday upheld the murder conviction of a former college student for killing his father and brutally assaulting his mother with an ax.

The Court of Appeals concluded there was so much evidence placing Christopher Porco at his parents' suburban Albany home during the early morning attack in 2004 that challenged police testimony didn't change the jury verdict.

Porco, now 28, is serving 46 years to life at Clinton Correctional Facility in the northeastern Adirondacks for murder and attempted murder.

His attorney, Terence Kindlon, argued that Porco's constitutional right to challenge witnesses against him was violated when police testified that his severely injured mother nodded yes when asked if he did it. She later testified she couldn't remember the nod or the attack and said she didn't believe he was capable of the attack.

"Even assuming, without deciding, that the testimony about the nod was constitutionally infirm, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt," the six judges ruled unanimously.

They noted evidence that showed Porco drove and parked at home during the crime, lied about having slept in his Rochester dormitory and about having tried to phone his parents. They also pointed out evidence that Porco had lied to his parents about mounting financial and academic trouble, that the home security system access code was used and the keypad smashed to make it appear a stranger broke in, and that he was implicated in a staged break-in at the home two years earlier.

"Trial errors resulting in violation of a criminal defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation 'are considered harmless when, in light of the totality of the evidence, there is no reasonable possibility that the error affected the jury's verdict,' " the court said. In this case "overwhelming evidence" placed him there when his parents were attacked in bed as they slept.

Peter Porco, 52, was law clerk for Presiding Justice Anthony Cardona of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court's 3rd Department and was well known in Albany legal circles. He was an attorney and had once been an assistant public defender.

Kindlon said he was disappointed by yesterday's ruling and would request a U.S. Supreme Court review of the case.

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