John Polster, attorney and family friend of the Porcos, decided on the night of Nov. 15, 2004, less than 24 hours after the murder of Peter Porco that he would be Joan Porco’s attorney.
Polster said he made the decision while Joan Porco lay in a hospital bed at Albany Medical Center in critical condition from wounds sustained by an assailant wielding an ax.
Christopher Porco is on trial for the murder of his father, Peter, and attempted murder of his mother, Joan.
The first time you were able to talk to Joan was Thursday or Friday (after the attack), but you became her lawyer on Wednesday, asked Assistant District Attorney David Rossi.
Polster said that in reality he began acting as Joan Porco’s legal representation the day of the crime.
`Very simply put, because I knew Peter would want me to,` Polster said.
Polster has considered himself to be a close family friend of the Porcos for over 30 years.
`When did you find out your friend was murdered?` asked Defense Attorney Laurie Shanks.
Polster said he had been working in the Schenectady County District Attorney’s office on Nov. 15, 2004 when he received a call from Judge Joseph Cannizzaro, Peter Porco’s employer. Polster found out shortly after that Christopher Porco was the main suspect.
`I heard a radio report at 3:30 p.m. that the suspect was armed and dangerous,` said Polster.
When Polster arrived at the hospital, he spotted several police officers and decided at that point to act as attorney for family members.
`I told the police I did not want questions asked to Joan without me being present,` Polster said.
The Albany County District Attorney’s office has had a hard time speaking with Joan Porco. One meeting was cancelled in late May when Joan Porco believed the D.A.’s office leaked information about DNA on a Thruway toll ticket. Another meeting was scheduled just two weeks ago.
Polster said one of the reasons for the scheduling problem is the lack of trust Joan Porco has with the District Attorney’s office, and her belief that the police who have investigated the crime are targeting her son Christopher as their only suspect.
`You said there were many false allegations made to her family,` said Rossi.
`I was referring to claims they (the Porco family) were dysfunctional,` Polster said.
`Did you ever hear anyone from the district attorney’s office report that the Porco family was dysfunctional?` Rossi asked.
Polster said he had not. Rossi said Joan Porco would not meet with the DA’s office unless all the information and evidence was presented to her first, said Rossi.
Earlier in the day, attorney Richard Hanft testified about a death threat that he and Peter Porco had received several years ago while working in Albany County Family Court. The death threat, which was taped by another attorney, was made against Hanft, Porco, and then-Family Court judge and now Appellate Judge Anthony Cardona by Patrick Delucia.
Delucia was embroiled in a bitter custody battle with his wife, and Porco served as law guardian for the Delucia children in 1989. When Hanft heard about Peter Porco’s murder in November 2004, he contacted the Bethlehem Police Department to try and provide them with facts about the prior death threat on Peter’s life.
`I had what I would characterize as a brief conversation,` said Hanft.
About four weeks later, a member of State Police contacted Hanft to elicit more information about the threat.
`I had no further direct communication with Bethlehem police,` said Hanft. Defense Attorneys Terence Kindlon and Laurie Shanks have tried to prove since the beginning of the trial that police did not follow through on any leads other than those that led to Christopher Porco.
`We’re not trying to prove Delucia is guilty, or ‘Frankie the Firemen’ is guilty,` said Kindlon. (Frankie the Fireman is a relative of Peter Porco’s who was incarcerated at the time of the and is allegedly tied to organized crime).`We are trying to demonstrate there were a number of significant events that cried out to be investigated and they were ignored.`
Chief Prosecutor Michael McDermott said Delucia has a solid alibi for the time Peter and Joan Porco were attacked, and has had no contact with the Porcos.
`Delucia has had nothing to do with the Porco’s for 15 years,` said McDermott.
Alexandra Hallock, longtime friend of Joan Porco’s, testified that in August 2004, Porco told her someone was tampering with the telephone box outside their 36 Brockley Drive home because calls were going unanswered. Hallock relayed the story after the crime to Margaret Fennell, another friend of Joan Porco’s. McDermott then called Hallock to investigate, but Hallock said her calls were never returned.
`Do you recall having five messages from me or Bethlehem police or State Police on your answering machine?` said McDermott. Hallock said she did not receive five messages.
`Did she (Mrs. Porco) tell you it was neighborhood kids who broke into her home?` McDermott asked.
`She never said that,` answered Hallock.
The defense has been trying to allude to several problems with the outside phone lines at 36 Brockley Drive. Business records from Verizon have already indicated phone lines were damaged on a telephone pole outside 36 Brockley Drive in August 2004. A large branch or tree limb was located lying next to the box at that time. At no other time prior to the November 2004 attacks were the phone lines outside the Porco home disabled. Phone lines were cut outside 36 Brockley Drive on Nov.15, 2004, most likely by the assailant.
The Christopher Porco murder trial is scheduled to end Wednesday, Aug. 9. If convicted on both counts of murder and attempted murder, Porco could face consecutive 25 year to life prison terms. Porco is currently free on bail awaiting the jury’s verdict.