THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Mass. court hears appeal in fashion writer slaying

May 6, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • E-mail|
  • Print|
  • |
Text size +

BOSTON—A trash collector convicted of murdering a Cape Cod fashion writer in 2002 is asking the state's highest court to grant him a new trial.

In his appeal, Christopher McCowen argues that racial bias and other juror misconduct tainted deliberations at his 2006 trial. McCowen was convicted of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Christa Worthington in her Truro home.

The state Supreme Judicial Court is scheduled to hear arguments in McCowen's appeal Friday.

McCowen's lawyer says in his appeal that three jurors made racially charged comments during deliberations about McCowen, who is black. He argues that the trial judge was wrong to have denied his motion for a new trial in 2008 after the judge questioned jurors individually during a four-day hearing on the alleged racial remarks.

"The magnitude of these transgressions is enormous. Flagrant misconduct makes this a rare case; this court must presume juror bias," attorney Robert George argued in a legal brief filed with the court.

Prosecutors argue that McCowen has not shown he was denied a fair trial.

"The trial judge's extensive findings of fact and rulings of law show that there was no juror bias, and that race did not play any part in the minds of these jurors," Assistant District Attorney Julia Holler argued in court papers.

Among the other grounds McCowen is asking the court to decide are: whether the judge was wrong to remove a juror during deadlocked deliberations and whether intense media coverage of the case should have mandated a change of venue and sequestration of the jury.

Worthington, 46, had covered fashion in New York and Paris before moving to Cape Cod.

McCowen, who was Worthington's trash collector, told police he and a friend went to her house in the early morning hours of Jan. 5, 2002. He said he and Worthington had consensual sex, and said his friend stabbed her after she confronted him about rifling through her belongings.

Connect with Boston.com

Twitter Follow us on @BostonUpdate, other Twitter accounts