Not Guilty Verdict in a Murder Case in Philadelphia
The odds were stacked against Joseph Notaro. Although he had cared for his elderly mother for decades, over the last six months of her life she suffered a series of suspicious injuries. After she died, it was the position of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office that these injuries were the cause of her death and Joseph Notaro was charged with the murder of his mother. The allegations were that Joseph’s mother suffered a series of blows to her head, that Joseph inflicted them intentionally, and that these injuries killed her.
Joseph denied the charges and retained attorney Michael van der Veen to fight the case in court. Attorney van der Veen recognized that the Commonwealth’s evidence was strong, but circumstantial and although the stakes were high, the case went to trial.
At trial, the Commonwealth presented evidence that Joseph’s mother suffered a number of injuries to her head over the last months of her life, which included a fall down the stairs. The frequency of these random injuries, coupled with the absence of acceptable explanations led to the prosecution’s conclusion that Joseph intentionally killed his aged mother. After presenting a volume of potentially damaging evidence, the district attorney rested the case.
Now, however, it was time for attorney van der Veen to present Joseph’s case. In order to convict Joseph of murder, it was not enough for the prosecution to just show that she suffered certain injuries. A murder conviction depended on also proving that these injuries actually caused her death. A critical point that the Philadelphia medical examiner had acknowledged under extensive cross-examination by van der Veen in the prosecution’s case in chief.
The absence of this causational link was the weakness in the Commonwealth’s case on which van der Veen focused. He argued that the blows to the head, regardless of how they were suffered, did not kill Joseph’s mother. To establish his position, van der Veen relied on the trial testimony of an expert medical examiner for the defense who reached the conclusion that Joseph’s mother did not die from her injuries as alleged by the Commonwealth, but rather from a general failing of her health, termed a “decline of homeostasis.”
Attorney van der Veen’s strategy was successful and Joseph Notaro was found NOT GUILTY and was a free man.
One of Philadelphia’s foremost personal injury, criminal defense and commercial litigation law firms, van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin combine nearly a century of passion-driven comprehensive law practice and client-centered representation for the full benefit of their clients. Their experience fighting for clients, serving the community and excelling in litigation has earned them the reputation as one of Pennsylvania’s toughest, hardest-working law firms.