Demagall ruled unfit for trial in murder of Hillsdale man

HUDSON—Columbia County Court Judge Jonathan Nichols has found that William Demagall is not mentally fit to stand trial a second time the murder of George Mancini in Hillsdale almost four years ago.
Mr. Demagall’s retrial in the stabbing/bludgeoning death of Mr. Mancini was set to start November 30, but will now be postponed indefinitely.
In December 2006, a Columbia County Court jury convicted Mr. Demagall, then 23, of Southfield, Mass., of second degree murder in the killing Mr. Mancini, 56, a retired, disabled schoolteacher at his home on Breezy Hill Road, just off Route 23 in Hillsdale, February 11, 2006.
But Mr. Demagall’s conviction was reversed in a state Supreme Court, Appellate Division decision issued April 2 of this year.
At the time of the murder, Mr. Demagall had escaped from the Jones III psychiatric ward at the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., less than two days before he allegedly repeatedly stabbed Mr. Mancini, beat him with a glass paperweight stuffed in a sock, then set his body on fire.
Columbia County Court Judge Paul Czajka, who presided over the trial, sentenced Mr. Demagall to the maximum sentence of 25 years to life on March 21, 2007.
But the appellate court decision called for the verdict against Mr. Demagall to be reversed and for Mr. Demagall to receive a new trial before a different judge.
Mr. Demagall “claimed to have received a vision from God directing him to kill the victim, a person with whom he had a brief encounter a couple of weeks earlier and whom he believed provided drugs to minors,” wrote the appellate court judges.
Judge Czajka rejected  Mr. Demagall’s plea that he was not responsible for the murder by reason of mental disease or defect, though it was supported by the report of Stuart Kleinman, a forensic psychiatrist, and the first psychiatric expert engaged by the prosecution before trial.
The appellate court determined that Judge Czajka’s ruling on the insanity defense was based on a “misapprehension of the law.”
Judge Czajka said at the time that he rejected the plea because Dr. Kleinman “provid[ed] insufficient evidence.” Dr. Kleinman stated in his report that the defendant knew that killing Mr. Mancini was illegal and wrong, said Judge Czajka.
Later, near the end of the trial, when defense attorney Richard Mott told the court he planned to point out to the jury that the prosecution had failed to produce Dr. Kleinman at trial, presenting only the testimony of the second psychiatric expert to examine Mr. Demagall, Judge Czajka would not permit it.
“The failure of the People to produce Kleinman met the preconditions for a missing witness charge,” said the appellate judges.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Cozzolino prosecuted the case.
In his November 19 decision, Judge Nichols found that based on the examination reports of two psychiatric examiners, the defendant “as a result of mental disease or defect lacks capacity to understand the proceeding against him or to assist in his own defense.”
On a motion by defense attorney Mott, Judge Nichols ordered that Mr. Demagall, now 26, “be committed to the custody of the Commissioner of” the Office of Mental Health/Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMH/OMRDD) “for care and treatment in an appropriate facility…for a period not to exceed one year from the date of this order.”
Should facility authorities determine that Mr. Demagall is no longer an incapacitated person, notice of that determination must be given to the court in writing.
Mr. Demagall will be incarcerated at the Columbia County Jail until the OMH/OMRDD commissioner designates a facility to hold Mr. Demagall. Sheriff’s Office personnel will then deliver him there.
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