MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court will decide whether to throw out a second-degree murder conviction and allow a new trial in the shooting death of Vincent Tamburello, of Springfield.
Lawyers for Kyle Bolaski, of Chester, argued to the court Thursday that the jury received erroneous instructions and Judge Patricia Zimmerman excluded Tamburello’s medical records from evidence to be presented to the jury. Bolaski’s lawyers said those were vital in showing Tamburello’s state of mind leading up to the killing and that he may have been suicidal.
Defense attorney William Nelson said if Tamburello was in control of himself, he would not have charged “suicidally” after a crowd of people and damaged Bolaski’s truck. According to Nelson, Tamburello tried to commit suicide in the days leading up to the shooting Aug. 17, 2008, and was a danger to himself and others.
“He made a suicide threat three days before (the shooting),” Nelson argued. “The most recent suicide attempt, which the hospital took very seriously, was three weeks before. It would be suicidal to charge at a loaded gun.”
Associate Justice John Dooley noted that the state argued at the May 2011 trial that Bolaski’s lawyer Kevin Griffin did not say suicidal thoughts motivated Tamburello’s actions. Nelson disagreed.
“I think what we’re arguing here is perfectly implicit in (Griffin’s) argument to Judge Zimmerman, and Judge Zimmerman understood it that way,” Nelson said.
“She said, in her opinion, from what I understand, is, ‘At this point, Vinny didn’t care whether he lived or died,’” Nelson said. “It had been disclosed before the trial and (Zimmerman) acknowledged that maybe this was not a great thing to do, to rule out all this evidence.”
David Tartter of the Vermont attorney general’s office argued Thursday that the defense cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Tamburello was suicidal. They also maintained Bolaski shot Tamburello in the back.
“Trying to kill yourself is not a motive to kill yourself,” Tartter said.
“If someone I know kills himself and they ask why and I say, ‘Because he was always trying to do that,’ that’s not a motive,” the prosecutor said. “(Tamburello) was moving backwards and the autopsy is consistent that he was.”
Tamburello and Bolaski’s parents were present at the hearing Thursday. Vincent Tamburello Sr. and his wife, Ronni, said their son was defending himself and his girlfriend at the time he was killed.
“That argument of ‘he wants to kill himself’ was absolutely ridiculous,” Tamburello said. “I didn’t hear anything relevant that would overturn (the decision). I hope they don’t.”
Trial testimony showed the incident leading to the second-degree murder conviction was the culmination of a dispute between two groups of friends over allegations of stolen marijuana. The parties met at MacKenzie Field in Chester.
Police said Bolaski, his brother, Corey, and others friends approached Tamburello, who chased after the group with a splitting maul and damaged Bolaski’s truck.
Bolaski took out his hunting rifle, shot Tamburello twice and killed him, the jury found in May 2011.
Zimmerman denied a new trial and acquittal of the murder conviction in a September 2011 ruling. Bolaski is serving 25 years to life at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, Ky.
“We stand by Kyle,” his father, David Bolaski, said after the hearing. “A good argument was made and we’re looking forward to the decision.”
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