The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has vacated the 2016 murder conviction of former Granby resident Cara Rintala, who was accused of killing her wife.
In March 2010, the victim, Annamarie Rintala, was found dead at the bottom of her basement stairs with paint all over her. Cara Rintala claimed she found her that way.
Two trials resulted in hung juries. In Rintala's third trial, the prosecution called a paint specialist to the stand to help determine when and how the paint was spilled, based on the condition and color of the paint. Prosecutors used that testimony to bolster their claim that Cara Rintala poured the paint on purpose to tamper with the crime scene.
But in its ruling released Monday, the Supreme Judicial Court said the witness did not use reliable, scientific methods — and that the testimony was likely a key factor in Cara Rintala's conviction.
The court ordered a new trial.
Rintala’s appellate attorney Chauncey Wood said his client is overjoyed.
"We think this is a great day not just for Cara Rintala but for justice and science in Massachusetts courts," Wood said. "The SJC reminds us that judges at every level of our judicial system have an independent obligation to act as a gatekeeper to evaluate — independently — the reliability of scientific expert testimony."
Wood said he will seek bail for Rintala as soon as legally permitted.
Rintala had previously been out on bail between her second and third trials. She is currently at the state prison in Framingham.
Prosecutor Stephen Gagne said the DA’s office is “profoundly disappointed” by the decision, but remains ready for a new trial.
Although Gagne said he has never tried a case four times before, it's not unprecedented.
"We believe it's the right thing to do," he said.
The DA's office pointed out that the court did affirm other aspects of the case against Rintala, such as the inclusion of evidence detailing violence in the couple's marriage.
"The SJC confirmed that this is a solid evidentiary case," Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said. "This case has been difficult, but we are resolute for seeking justice for Annamarie and her family."