January 15, 1975, Butch’s then-lawyer, Jacob Siegfried, motioned the
court to be permitted “the right to examine, inspect, copy,
photograph, or make and take photostatic copies of the original
notes of the arresting officers, together with police reports
containing statements of the witnesses...”
Siegfried insisted these items were crucial in his affidavit, saying,
“The defendant was deprived of his right to a preliminary hearing in the
district court by the district attorney’s actions in presenting the case
directly to the Grand Jury.”
Regardless, the court did not believe these items necessary for Butch's
defense, and on March 11, 1975, presiding Judge John Jones denied the
request. With little choice remaining, Siegfried later filed a notice of
defense of mental disease or defect for his client. Since the defense
had been denied an equal opportunity to have the same reports, records,
and photos that the prosecution had in its possession, there was only
one choice left: an insanity plea.
did not want his sanity questioned, and he threatened to strangle
Siegfried. With little recourse, and after spending more than $40,000 on
attorneys, Michael Brigante Sr. told his grandson, “Sweetheart, your
dime is played out.” This meant that Butch would have to use a
7, 1975, William Weber, from the firm of Fredrick Mars and Bernard
Burton in Patchogue, New York, was assigned by the clerk of the Suffolk
County Court to represent Butch in his trial.
29, 1975, Judge Ernest Signorelli, who was at that time presiding over
the DeFeo trial, had a conference between Butch, prosecuting attorney
Gerard Sullivan, and William Weber. The major concern was that there
were no objections to Weber's playing an active role in Judge
Signorelli's campaign to be elected to the surrogate court. After
everyone agreed Weber’s role in Judge Signorelli's campaign did not pose
a problem, the matter of an insanity defense came up.
was hoping Judge Signorelli would grant the defense motion to obtain
copies of all the police reports and crime‑scene photographs the
prosecution had. On
August 1, 1975, Judge Signorelli issued a ruling on Weber’s supplemental
omnibus motion, granting the defense copies of the reports and
photographs in the prosecution's possession. Since Weber did not receive
the documents until the end of August, he had little time to use them in
preparation for the trial set to begin September 15.
September 15, 1975, the defense was also struck a devastating blow when
Judge Signorelli announced in a hearing, “I deem it advisable to
disqualify myself from the case, and I am going to ask the
administrative judge to reassign the case.”
book, entitled High Hopes, Sullivan openly admitted
that he had an active role behind Judge Signorelli's dismissing himself.
Sullivan added, “...I had not finished maneuvering. I was about to
engage in a time‑honored strategy that defense lawyers and prosecutors
have honed into an art form. Some called it ‘judge shopping.'"
Sullivan helped pressure Judge Signorelli from the case in order to get
the judge he wanted. His wish came true because the DeFeo case was
rescheduled to begin on Monday, September 22, 1975, at 9:30 a.m., with
Justice Thomas Stark—Sullivan’s choice—presiding over it. For his book,
Talking with Serial Killers, British Criminologist Christopher
Berry-Dee interviewed Justice Stark. Confronting Justice Stark on
Sullivan handpicking him, Justice Stark, with a waive of a hand
dismissed this, and said, "In hindsight, this was quite wrong, but
things were different back then.”
outset, in an attempt to nail Weber down on his defense during a private
post-hearing conference, Justice Stark asked, “At this time, Mr. Weber,
are you prepared to continue our discussion as to the matter of the
defendant’s intentions of raising the defense of mental disease or
replied, "Your honor, I am not able to answer you on that point, at this
needing a definitive answer, Justice Stark continued pressing Weber on
the issue. Whereas Weber replied, “Your honor, at this point, the only
thing I could ask the court to consider is my application for an
adjournment of the trial.”
went on to explain to Justice Stark his need for the 60‑day adjournment.
Because he had been retained as an attorney only since July, Weber
needed more time to prepare his case. Although Judge Signorelli had
granted Weber’s omnibus motion on August 1, Weber had not received any
paperwork from the district attorney until August 27.
During the post-hearing conference, Weber
explained Race's findings--multiple killers, weapons, and accomplices
not being prosecuted. With such an overwhelming amount of evidence,
Weber felt an adjournment was appropriate. Besides, Weber argued that the presence of an
accomplice, who they named at the post-hearing conference to show that
this "witness" was not cooperating, might assist Butch in an emotional strain defense rather than
a mental defect one. If an emotional strain defense was used, and
successful, then the charge against Butch would be reduced from
second‑degree murder to first‑degree manslaughter.
Although William Weber fought
valiantly for his client, in the end Justice Stark denied
Weber’s request and ordered the jury selection to commence on Monday,
October 6, 1975. It was clear that Butch DeFeo was not being afforded
the fullest protections of the American judicial system, so alternative
methods were needed, including persuading Butch to plead insanity by
pretending, among other things, to hear voices in the Amityville house.
However, Butch was no actor and his testimony actually backfired when he
admitted not hearing any of the so-called voices the night of the
In an affidavit,
Barry Springer stated that William Weber had told him that people
approached him to write a book even before Butch's trial had started.
Geraldine DeFeo further explained, "Because Butch felt insulted that his
insanity could be questioned, Weber had to convince him by alternative
means. He promised Butch that he'd get out in two to three years, and
that he'd be rich from the book's success."
In a notarized
affidavit, Geraldine DeFeo admitted to being party to the initial
planning of a book before backing out due to ethical concerns.
MORE INFORMATION ON THIS SUBJECT
MATTER CAN BE FOUND IN
THE NIGHT THE DEFEOS DIED: REINVESTIGATING THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS.
BUY IT HERE
CLICK TEXT TO OPEN
TESTIMONY FROM HERMAN RACE
BUTCH DEFEO CONFESSES
THE PROSECUTOR'S OPENING STATEMENT
LACK OF CONFESSION TESTIMONY
MEDICAL EXAM ON DEFEO
REPORTS FROM SUFFOLK COUNTY
BUTCH DEFEO'S TESTIMONY
UNANIMOUS GUILTY VERDICT