Sullivan County Court Judge Frank LaBuda heard arguments Thursday that could set aside Paul Novak’s murder conviction on a technicality. Our Eva McKend has the details.
SULLIVAN COUNTY, N.Y. -- Convicted murderer Paul Novak now waits to find out if he'll get a new trial, or still face life in prison.
The law is so on our side.
Defense Attorney Gary Greenwald arguing his client, Paul Novak's, constitutional rights were violated near the end of his seven week trial. The door was locked by a court officer after Judge Frank LaBuda said he didn't want people coming in and out of the courtroom. Several witnesses backed that claim during Thursday's hearing.
"The door was locked and of the most sacred principles of criminal law is that you can't lock a courtroom," said Gary Greenwald, defense attorney.
That right is protected by the sixth amendment but overturning convictions on the technicality are rare.
The District Attorney would not comment for us, and also didn't call any witnesses.
However, during the hearing, he hammered the point the courtroom was open for the rest of the trial.
Novak was convicted of murdering his wife Catherine in 2008 and setting their Narrowsburg home on fire to cover it up.
Novak's girlfriend testified on his behalf.
"The burden of proof was not even close to being met. This is our chance to set the record straight, and set him free where he belongs. He is an innocent man," said Kathleen Delgrosso, Paul Novak's girlfriend.
"There isn't a single case in the state of New York that anybody could find in which the courtroom was closed during summations," said Greenwald.
After the trial which we covered gavel to gavel for more than seven weeks, jurors told us they were convinced Novak was guilty.
But the defense insists a closed courtroom, at any point, is a violation of Novak's constitutional rights.
The judge will decide Friday if he'll grant a new trial, or if the court will move forward with sentencing.