Updated 10/26/2012 05:14 PM
Man charged with Groton murder back in court
A Tompkins County man accused of killing another man with a pair of knives is back in court. Dana Houghtling is charged for murder the attack. Tamara Lindstrom tells us more about what kind of trial he'll be facing.
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TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. -- Investigators say it started as a domestic disturbance and ended in a brutal killing.
"The top count is murder in the second degree," said Assistant District Attorney Andrew Bonavia. "There are a number of counts of criminal contempt in the first degree related to an Order of Protection that was violated. There are criminal mischief in the fourth degree as well and there are a number of endangering the welfare of a child counts related to the children that were involved in the incident."
Dana Houghtling was brought to court Friday. He's been charged with the murder of Jeff West, 31. Both men lived in Groton, where the dispute began. On April 15th, police say Houghtling drove to a home in Lansing where his estranged wife, children and the victim were. Witnesses say Houghtling crashed his truck into a parked car, then went after West.
Houghtling is accused of carrying out a viscous attack, stabbing the victim multiple times as he tried to escape. But these are details a jury won't hear.
"It's always a difficult decision as to whether to waive a jury trial because each alternative has advantages and disadvantages," said defense attorney Joe Joch. "But in this case, it would be easier for the defense to present the evidence in a dispassionate, intelligent way with a judge who is as well versed in the subject matter as Judge Rowley is."
While a jury won't be called, prosecutors say it doesn't change their case.
"In terms of evidence, it doesn't change the evidence. The case is what it is and the facts are what is involved in the case. And we'll present them to judge just as we would if we were presenting it to a jury," Bonavia.
Some of that evidence, provided by the defense, will attempt to prove Houghtling is not guilty of murder.
"The defendant was overcome by emotion at the time that this happened, which would reduce murder to manslaughter under a theory of extreme emotional disturbance," Joch said.
The case is scheduled to be presented to the judge in February.