Third trial of Hillsdale murder case ends in mistrial

(This story appears online at the website of the Times Union and an earlier version appeared in the Friday edition of the newspaper. It is used here with permission.)


HUDSON–The jury in William Demagall’s third murder trial couldn’t decide Thursday if he was aware of his actions when he killed a retired Hillsdale schoolteacher.

David Cardona, law clerk for presiding Judge Jonathan Nichols, said the jury could not reach an agreement by the end of its fourth day of deliberations, resulting in a mistrial.

Mr. Demagall is accused of the brutal 2006 killing of 56-year-old George Mancini. Mancini was bludgeoned, stabbed and set on fire. Demagall told police at the time he was doing “God’s will.”

Defense attorney Cheryl Coleman said the trial is not about Mr. Demagall’s innocence or guilt — the defense and the prosecution agree he killed Mancini. Ms. Coleman said she is more concerned about whether the state will accept his insanity defense and treat Mr. Demagall, rather than convict him.

Special prosecutor Michael Cozzolino argued that Mr. Demagall’s actions following the killing showed that he understood what he was doing is wrong. Prosecutors believe he should be sentenced to life in prison.

Ms. Coleman says that her client was incapable at the time of the killing of understanding that what he was doing was morally wrong and that he should be found not guilty by reason of mental defect. Such a conviction would result in Mr. Demagall’s confinement to a secure mental facility until a time a judge decides he is cured.

“If he’s probably going to be confined for the better part of this life, wouldn’t it be better if that was a view toward treatment, should he ever be released?” Ms. Coleman asked on Thursday night.

Mr. Demagall’s father, Steven, said he’s not sure what will happen next except that there will be another trial. “We’re disappointed, but it’s better than guilty,” Steven Demagall said.

The Demagalls have now sat through three trials for their son and Steven Demagall said it never gets easier.

Mr. Demagall’s original 2006 second-degree murder conviction was reversed by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court in 2009 for an error in expert testimony. Demagall was found guilty at his 2011 retrial, but the court reversed that verdict in 2014 and ordered a new trial over errors with the same expert testimony.

“You never get used to it, but we always hope for the best for our son,” Steven Demagall said. “We’re very proud of him. And you know, there’s still hope.”

According to court documents and trial testimony, Mr. Demagall’s diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia and he was delusional, having believed that he was at various times Robin Hood, Merlin and Sir Galahad of the Arthurian legends.

Two days before the murder, Mr. Demagall escaped from a psychiatric wing of Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass., and lived in a cave until he got a ride to Mancini’s Breezy Hill Road home on Feb. 10, 2006.

Demagall told State Police that he had visited Mancini before and had a vision that he had to kill him on a “mission from God.”

Just after the murder, a law enforcement official told the Times Union that Mr. Demagall said he peered into Mancini’s eyes as he plunged a knife into him 37 times, telling him, “I want to see your soul.”

Two days after the killing, police in Schodack arrested Mr. Demagall at the Rite Aid drugstore at Schodack Plaza on Columbia Turnpike. Employees said Mr. Demagall, who has a faint tattoo on his forehead of a small figure with horns, was acting odd and had tried to trade jewelry for morphine.


To contact Times Union reporter Bob Gardinier email , call 518 454-5696 or go to @BobGardinier.



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