Candace J. Cartagena, found guilty in August 2014 of the murder of her 8-year-old daughter, has failed in her effort to have her conviction overturned.
An Appellate panel of State Supreme Court ruled the trial court had enough evidence to find Cartagena killed her daughter, Bianca, in November 2010. In their unanimous decision, the judges said Bianca died of asphyxia and that Cartagena was the only person with the child at the time she died.
The Fourth Department appellate judges also cited Cartagena’s “widely inconsistent accounts of her whereabouts and actions leading up to and following the victim’s death.”
Cartagena said she accidentally suffocated her child when she took what she hoped would be a fatal overdose of pills and lay down next to the napping Bianca on her bed. But a doctor testifying for the prosecution said the child died from deliberate suffocation, with indications that pressure also had been applied around her nose and mouth.
At Cartagena’s sentencing after a nonjury trial, Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk said he stood by his guilty verdict, and added, “If I’m wrong, the Appellate Division will tell me so.”
The Appellate Division judges wrote it would not have been “unreasonable” if Franczyk had found that Cartagena did not intend to kill her daughter. They said the judge who hears the evidence in court has a “far superior” ability to assess its credibility than they do from the written record.
Cartagena was sentenced to the maximum possible sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
In another homicide case, the appellate judges upheld the 25-year sentence given to Cody R. Testerman for killing his half brother, Jesse Seneca, in 2012.
Testerman, now 26, originally was charged with murder but pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for fatally stabbing Seneca, 20, on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation. Investigators said Seneca’s ex-girlfriend planned the attack as revenge after Seneca broke up with her. Testerman’s attorney said at the time that the girlfriend, who was 18, convinced Testerman that she was in love with him and that Seneca had beaten her up.
At his sentencing, Testerman apologized to his family and said, “I was just sick and tired of being alone. I hated being used. I had no friends. I didn’t feel loved by my own family.”
While the appellate judges were willing to hear Testerman’s arguments, it was not enough for them to overturn the sentence, which they said was not overly harsh in light of the brutality of the crime.
“We note that defendant stabbed the victim more than 20 times, including 18 times in his face, throat, and stomach, thereby causing his death,” according to the decision. They also pointed out that Testerman was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser charge “with the understanding that he would receive the agreed-upon sentence.”
The appellate judges also upheld the manslaughter conviction of Bernard Roberson, now 23, who used a shotgun to kill Jason Ramirez, 38, in May 2014. Ramirez was trying to break up a drunken argument between Roberson and another person when he was shot, according to prosecutors.
The panel wrote that Roberson understood that he was waiving his right to appeal when he accepted the plea to the lesser charge rather than being convicted of the original charge of murder.
The judges cited the same rationale for denying the appeal of Dennis Triplett, also known as “Nanny,” who sought to have his case overturned because of issues involving a change of his attorneys. Triplett is serving three concurrent 10-year sentences for his role in the attempted murders of three people who were shot on Townsend Street on Oct. 26, 2013. Triplett provided the weapon used by his brother, Ricky Grace, in a drug-related shooting that left the victims critically wounded and told him when to fire it.
Jovonna Davis, Brandon Washington and Charles Washington all survived, but the case gained notoriety when it was revealed that, after Charles Washington was shot in the back while trying to flee, Triplett picked him up and told Grace, “He ain’t dead yet; finish him off.” Grace shot the wounded man once more in the head before he and his brother left the three for dead.
Triplett knew that he was waiving his right to appeal when he pleaded guilty, the appellate judges wrote, and that included any challenges he tried to raise about his legal representation.
Story topics: Shared