By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – District Attorney John Muehl doesn’t see how overturning Casey Callahan’s guilty verdict is in the interest of justice.
“This ruling was made ‘in the interest of justice,’” he said. “But their interest of justice is for a murderer, not a victim, who was a loving mother and a member of a close-knit family.”
The Appellate Division, Third Department, overturned
Callahan’s 2017 conviction for murder in the second degree in the 2000 killing of his wife, Elizabeth Welsh, on the grounds that not enough evidence was presented at trial.
“Because the evidence of the defendant’s guilt was not overwhelming, there must be a new trial,” the decision read.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Muehl.
Callahan was found guilty of the murder of Elizabeth after a four-day trial, where Muehl laid out the case that Callahan deliberately ran his wife over with his 18 wheeler in the parking lot of the Dandy Mart #19 in Sayre, Penn, just over the state line from Binghamton.
“I can kill someone and get away with it,” Muehl said in his opening remarks at trial, using what he described as the exact words of Callahan to Elizabeth’s brother, Patrick Welsh, just four months before her death. “I’d take somebody for a ride, stop at the Dandy Mart just off Route 17, just inside Pennsylvania, and run them over. They’ve got a Mayberry police department. They’re understaffed. They wouldn’t investigate an accident. That’s what they’d call it – an accident.”
At the trial, multiple witnesses testified to Callahan’s abuse of his wife, including her psychiatrist, Dr. Joan Bachorik, who said that the day before Elizabeth’s death, she told her that she was afraid Callahan would kill her.
But in the ruling, the defendant, Callahan, challenged Amanda Travis’ testimony that she saw him abuse her aunt as “beyond the scope of the Molineux application” because the prosecution requested to offer proof of verbal and emotional abuse by Callahan, but Travis also testified to witnessing him kick Elizabeth in the stomach.
“As such, the niece’s testimony, some of which was hearsay, exceeded the scope of the People’s Molineux application and deprived the defendant of a fair trial,” the ruling read.
Although no objections were made to Travis’ testimony by the defense during the trial, the judges still acknowledged that her testimony was unfair to Callahan. “Despite this infirmity, we deem it appropriate under the particular circumstances of this case to exercise in the interest of justice jurisdiction and reverse the judgment.”
“Was I supposed to object to myself?” said Muehl. “The defense didn’t object and had no reason to.”
The judges upheld two of the challenges, including the jurisdiction issue. Callahan picked up Elizabeth at their home in Goodyear Lake before he drove her to XXX, where he ran her over with his truck as she tied her shoe.
“The jury correctly concluded that the People established beyond a reasonable doubt that defendants ‘conduct in New York…manifested [his] intent to commit the crime.”
Muehl blamed “unqualified people” on the appellate bench. “The problem is that the governor has appointed judges who have never tried a jury trial,” he said. “How are you supposed to review proceedings if you’ve never been involved with one?”
Callahan had been sentenced to 25-to-life for Elizabeth’s murder. In addition to the murder charge, Callahan is already serving a 12 ½-year sentence in Attica for molesting a child in 2013. With his case now overturned, he will be released in 2025.
Muehl has not yet decided whether he will seek a new trial.
“At this point, we’re still looking at options,” he said. “But due to the potential loss of witnesses, I may not be able to retry.”