Saturday was George Carty's fourth Christmas in jail without a trial, but his attorney is hoping that a recent court decision may have the medical-school graduate out by 2011.
Last week, the New Jersey Appellate Court in Trenton upheld a 2009 decision by Cape May County Superior Judge Raymond Batten to throw out statements Carty gave to investigators looking into the 1982 murder of John Attenborough, his former colleague and drinking buddy.
Carty's attorney, Dave Stefankiewicz, hopes to have a hearing by week's end to address the former Scrabble wizard's $250,000 bail.
"He's been steadfast in his resolve," Stefankiewicz said of Carty. "He gets discouraged and frustrated. He believed the state kept him in prison to make him break, and he wouldn't."
Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor said he planned to push forward with the case, despite the decision.
"Out of concern for the victim and his family, we are going to petition for certification to the N.J. Supreme Court because we believe Mr. Carty's statements in the record describing how he killed Mr. Attenborough should be heard by a jury," Taylor said in a statement yesterday.
Attenborough, a co-worker of Carty's at the Wildwood Golf and Country Club, was stomped and beaten to death in Lower Township in July 1982. In 2007, investigators with the prosecutor's office visited Carty in West Virginia, where he had moved, and conducted a five-hour interrogation at a State Police barracks there.
During a polygraph test with a sergeant from the West Virginia State Police, Carty was asked to "visualize" punching and striking Attenborough.
"Anything's possible, OK?" the officer told Carty.
Carty played along, but according to the appellate decision, he couldn't even recall being at the scene of the crime.
"I'm making all this up," Carty told the sergeant administering the test.
Batten threw the statement out last December and said investigators ignored Carty, who had signed a Miranda waiver, when he later said he did not want to take a polygraph. Taylor, however, questioned whether there could be a "partial revocation" of a Miranda waiver.
" 'No polygraph' is not the same as 'I want to remain silent,' " Taylor said. "Mr. Carty did not say he wanted to remain silent."
The appellate court, Taylor argued, should have reviewed the entire video of Carty's interrogation and statement before determining that "a defendant with a college education and years of medical school was confused."