CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — The state Supreme Court will not hear an appeal by the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office in its case against murder suspect George J. Carty III.
“It should effectively end the case,” Carty’s defense attorney David Stefankiewicz said Wednesday afternoon. “The court doesn’t want to hear the case.”
Carty, now 53, was arrested in December 2007 at his Ohio home and charged with first-degree murder in the July 27, 1982, death of Lower Township resident John Attenborough, 57. Carty and Attenborough had worked together as cooks at the Wildwood Golf and Country Club in Middle Township.
Carty’s arrest came months after Carty agreed to talk with investigators at a West Virginia State Police barracks as part of a cold-case review. He was living in West Virginia at the time and it is the state he still considers home.
Those lengthy conversations were recorded and became the crux of the state’s case, but on Dec. 18, 2009, Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten ruled the taped statements, including a polygraph examination, inadmissible.
Batten said Carty was not properly administered his Miranda warnings and was coerced by police into taking the test after telling them he did not want to take it.
The judge found that anything Carty said after telling police “no polygraph” would not be admissible in court.
Carty, however, remained in the Cape May County jail after the Prosecutor’s Office decided to take the case to the state’s Appellate Division.
Then, in December 2010, the Appellate Division issued a ruling also finding the statement inadmissible, agreeing with Batten’s decision.
Days later, on Dec. 28, 2010, Batten reduced Carty’s bail from $250,000 to $50,000, allowing his family to post bail while the Prosecutor’s Office pursued the case with the state’s Supreme Court.
Since then, Carty has been living in Middle Township with his wife, Cheryl, waiting for the case to come to some resolution. He has maintained his innocence.
“I didn’t do it. That’s all I can say, and either you believe it or you don’t,” Carty said after his release from jail.
While Stefankiewicz said the Supreme Court’s order should end the case, Carty said Wednesday life has not yet changed for him.
“So far, it’s all just hearsay. It doesn’t do anything for me right now,” Carty said, explaining he is waiting for the murder charge to be dropped before he celebrates. “I want them to drop the charges with prejudice, so they don’t come back after me.”
Since being released from the county jail on Dec. 28, Carty, who worked as a nurse and completed medical school in West Virginia in 2005, said he has been unable to find a job.
“I’ve been blacklisted. I can’t get a job washing dishes,” he said.
But, he added, he was glad to have spent the last eight months or so with his family instead of the jail.
“It’s been a surreal experience. I still think I’m dreaming,” Carty said.
Stefankiewicz said that from his perspective, “This has consumed my practice for three years. I’ve been representing an innocent man.” The attorney said he had not been in touch with the Prosecutor’s Office since receiving the Supreme Court’s order, but he expected the case against Carty was finished.
“I would think the state would have to throw in its cards,” Stefankiewicz said.
Prosecutor Robert Taylor, reached by telephone Wednesday afternoon, did not have a comment at that time, but said he would have a comment about the case today.
Stefankiewicz, meanwhile, credited Batten for his initial ruling in 2009, calling the judge’s finding “a courageous decision.”
“I am glad that in America somebody can’t be tried and convicted on such flimsy evidence,” said Stefankiewicz, calling the case mishandled and misguided.
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