BOSTON -- The man convicted of killing a fellow Coast Guard petty officer and shooting her wife and a Bourne police officer has asked the state's highest court to overturn his 2017 conviction and grant him a new trial.
Adrian Loya argues through his attorney that two errors in the wording of jury verdict slips warrant a new trial.
Loya, 35, of Chesapeake, Virginia, was found guilty of first-degree murder and 29 other counts after a weeklong trial in Barnstable Superior Court in connection with a deadly rampage carried out in February 2015 at a Monument Beach condominium complex.
The elaborate "mission," as Loya referred to it, had been planned for more than a year. His target was Lisa Trubnikova, who he said had sexually assaulted him when the two were stationed in Kodiak, Alaska. He shot and killed her and shot and wounded her wife, Anna Trubnikova, who was also in the Coast Guard, and Bourne police Officer Jared MacDonald.
Loya lit his car on fire at the only entrance to the complex to stymie the police response and scattered hoax explosive devices around the development. He said his plan was to provoke the police into killing him.
The facts of the case were never contested at trial. Instead, the jury had to determine if Loya was criminally responsible, the same defense referred to as "not guilty by reason of insanity" in other jurisdictions.
First-degree murder convictions in Massachusetts trigger an automatic appeal to the state Supreme Judicial Court. Loya's appeal was filed March 6 by attorney Theodore Riordan.
Riordan argues that the verdict slip should have asked the jury if the prosecution had proved Loya's guilt and sanity beyond a reasonable doubt, which would have required a yes or no answer. Instead, it asked jurors to find him guilty, not guilty or not guilty by lack of criminal responsibility.
Drew Segadelli, Loya's attorney during the trial, had filed a motion to revise the wording on the verdict slips. Judge Gary Nickerson said at the beginning of the trial that he would study the motion "with interest," but the issue was never brought up again and Segadelli did not object to the verdict slip, the appeal states.
"As such, the standard of review is a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice," Riordan wrote.
Riordian also argues the judge should have allowed Segadelli's motion to change the verdict slips from "not guilty, lack of criminal responsibility" to "guilty but not criminally responsible."
Four psychiatrists or psychologists testified at trial to Loya's criminal responsibility. Two were favorable to Loya's position he was not responsible and two were favorable to the prosecution, Riordan wrote.
"Most significantly, the Commonwealth's own expert opined that Mr. Loya did not have criminal responsibility!" Riordan wrote.
According to model jury instructions, to find Loya not guilty due to lack of criminal responsibility, jurors had to find he had a "mental disease or defect" and as a result, lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the "criminality or wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law."
At the start of the trial, Segadelli filed a separate motion, asking Nickerson to allow the jury to consider if Loya was "guilty but insane."
Segadelli wrote that, to find Loya was not criminally competent, jurors would have to check a box labeled "not guilty," but in a case with "overwhelming emotion," jurors would have a "difficult time" getting past those words. Instead, the verdict slip should have read "factually guilty but not criminally responsible."
"As argued by trial counsel, given the egregious facts of this case, it would be extremely hard for a jury to associate the words 'not guilty' with this defendant," Riordan wrote.
This article is written by Wheeler Cowperthwaite from Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.