The Insanity Defense in the Real World

Someone commits a crime but is found “not guilty by reason of insanity”. It doesn’t happen just on TV – it’s a real defense entered by a defendant in a criminal trial. The defendant claims that they were so mentally disturbed or incapacitated at the time of the offense that they did not have the required intention to commit the crime and is therefore not guilty – even though they committed the crime. But as Elliot Levine, a noted criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts, will explain, this rarely used defense strategy can be difficult for the defense team.

In this episode, Levine and a former client, Pat, will discuss Levine’s successful defense using the insanity defense when Pat was tried for robbery. Pat is an Army veteran who held up a convenience store upon returning to the US after serving on the front lines in the Vietnam War. Levine argued that Pat was suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from his combat experiences. Levine will also share another instance in which he successfully used the insanity defense in a murder trial in front of a jury.

Above Suspicion: The Rise and Ruin of an FBI Agent

When Mark Putnam graduated from the FBI Academy in 1986, he seemed to have it all: the new career he’d dreamed about his entire life, darkly handsome good looks, an attractive wife from a rich family, a new baby daughter and another child on the way. His first big assignment took them to the podunk town of Pikeville KY, Hatfield and McCoy country, where Mark’s productive record of arrests seemed to make him a model agent. But his secret sexual entanglement with FBI paid informant Susan Smith (an attractive, loose-lipped, high-school dropout, drug user and sometimes prostitute) began a dark spiral downward. When Susan went missing in June 1989, not one bit of evidence led to her whereabouts. Then Mark did something that startled his colleagues and led to his becoming the first FBI agent in history to be charged with and convicted of murder. Was Susan murdered to cover up the affair after she threatened to tell his wife and the FBI she was carrying Mark’s unborn child?

Happy New Year! Hello, 2022!

Ring in the Year of the Tiger with Diane and Jordan as they look back at the best of their 2021 podcasts and give you a taste of what’s coming up in 2022.

Many listeners have been asking about the everyday work of the court reporter, the nuts and bolts of the job, from the important grunt work of transcription to the ins and outs of trial assignments and courtroom sessions. Jordan will cross-examine Diane on the nitty-gritty of her profession and she doesn’t hold back.

And they want to hear from YOU, the listeners, what YOU’D like to hear in the year ahead, what your favorite parts of the podcasts are, and how All Rise with Diane Godfrey has become part of your social media life. Share your ideas and feedback at

Defending Whitey Bulger: A Candid Conversation with J.W. Carney

J.W. “Jay” Carney, a prominent Boston-based criminal defense lawyer, rose to national fame when he defended James “Whitey” Bulger, the infamous South Boston crime boss. Jay is known for taking on the gruesome or difficult cases, such as that of Tarek Mehanna, the pharmacist from Sudbury, MA who was convicted in 2012 for providing support to Al Qaeda, and of John Salvi, who in 1994 killed two people and wounded five others at two Brookline, MA abortion clinics. He has been spotlighted in media outlets such as CNN, The Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal for his work. Boston Magazine named Jay one of The Five Best Private Criminal Defense Attorneys in Massachusetts. Join us as Jay recounts his first encounter with Mr. Bulger and what it was like to represent one of the most notorious criminals in Boston – and US – history.

BLOOD WILL TELL: Clemente Aguirre Was Innocent

Clemente “Shorty” Aguirre thought he had finally found a place beyond the reach of death. He had fled threats and violence in his home country, Honduras, after refusing to join a gang. When he saw his best friend’s body dumped in front of his house, he got the message to join or be killed as well. A grueling journey through Nicaragua and Mexico, then across the Rio Grande, got him to his sister’s house in Florida. He got a job, found a place to stay in a trailer park, and looked forward to a chance at a new life. That all came crashing down when went over to his friend Samantha’s place to cadge a beer and found a gruesome scene inside: Sam’s mother and grandmother lay slaughtered, stabbed multiple times in a trailer now spattered (the forensic term is blood spatter, not blood splatter) with blood. Were they still alive? He checked the bodies, getting smeared in blood, then heard a noise. In his panic, Clemente picked up the murder weapon, a knife on the floor, thinking the killer was still inside. Then he ran back home, tossed the knife away onto the grass, and tried to hide his bloody clothes. An illegal immigrant would never be believed, he thought. Those misjudgments were enough to help convict him and ultimately send him to Death Row. But then The Innocence Project got involved, and discovered that over 150 blood samples were collected at the scene, but not one had ever been analyzed for DNA. When that evidence was finally properly examined, a very difference picture of the crime emerged. Clemente would be exonerated, and is now able to share his experiences.

The Lonely Death of Mary Lou Arruda

“She still stays in St. Joseph’s Cemetery. Nobody overturns that verdict.”

Joanne Arruda knew something was terribly wrong. It was late afternoon on Friday, September 8th, 1978: two days after her daughter’s 15th birthday. But Mary Lou still wasn’t home. She had been out riding her bike in her Raynham, MA neighborhood, about 32 miles south of Boston. The orange ten-speed bike turned up on a dirt road near her home, but Mary Lou would not be found for two months. On November 11th, kids riding dirt-bikes came across her standing body tied to a tree 18 miles away from the Arruda home, in Freetown State Forest. Her possessions had been arranged in a semi-circle in front of her, and most gruesomely: her head was near them. She had been strangled and abandoned.

James Kater, a 31-year-old who worked in a Brockton MA doughnut shop, soon emerged as a suspect. He had been released from prison in January 1976 for a shockingly similar crime. In that case, the 13-year-old girl had survived the strangulation, and after Kater left her was able to untie herself. His lime green car had been seen in Mary Lou’s neighborhood, physical evidence was found, and his alibi soon fell apart. Kater’s sentence for kidnapping and murder sent him to prison for the rest of his life, but he continued to fight the verdict.

Her bitter comment about her daughter buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery came after she heard of the third retrial having been ordered. I worked on the fourth and final Kater trial and will discuss the case, conviction, appeals, and retrials.

Living Unsheltered: A Survivor’s Story

Violence against the homeless is only too common and has been on the rise over the last few years. Violence among the homeless is unfortunately also frequent; the odds of a homeless person becoming a crime victim are appallingly high. Going beyond the courtroom, today’s podcast brings you onto the streets of Boston to hear what it was like to be a crime victim while “living unsheltered”, the term now used to refer to the homeless. Ginny, a former registered nurse, ended up living on the sidewalk in front of the Boston hospital where she once had a thriving career and where her mother was the director of nursing for many years. For seven years, Ginny witnessed street violence firsthand – and too often experienced it herself: “I received eight concussions as a victim of crime.” Homeless individuals, particularly women, are among the most vulnerable in society because they are very often ostracized and demonized. The segregation of the unsheltered population helps make it a breeding ground for violence. Too many Americans living “normal” lives are just one lost job, health crisis, or accident away from being homeless. Ginny will recount her struggles and how she made her way back from the streets.

Justice Served Cold: The Murder of Dora Brimage

On the night of September 6th, 1987, Dora Jean Brimage, 19, accepted a ride from a birthday party in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. She was seen getting into a car with three men. The next day, construction workers renovating a vacant building a mile and a half away from the party location found her semi-clad, mutilated body; she had been severely beaten, raped, and strangled. There were no suspects, but investigators preserved the evidence, hoping that one day advances in DNA science would help them solve the vicious crime. Her family would wait nearly 30 years to find out who had killed Dora, who was active in her church and in high school athletics, and who had planned to pursue a career in nursing. Her sister said she never wore pink again. Dora was wearing a pink outfit when she was murdered.

In 2014, a federal grant enabled the Boston Police Department Cold Case Squad to re-examine “cold cases.” The DNA evidence from Dora Brimage at last yielded its secrets: a suspect was identified. It would take the Squad two years to build their case against him. When justice was finally served, Dora’s mother Doris made a dramatic declaration at the killer’s sentencing hearing which stunned the courtroom.

“A Terrible Night!” The 1989 Carol Stuart Murder, Revisited

October 23, 1989. It was a crime that shocked even the most jaded journalist and shook the city of Boston and beyond. Carol DiMaiti Stuart, nine months pregnant, was killed and her husband Chuck Stuart seriously wounded. They had been shot in their car after attending a birthing class at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. Chuck claimed a Black man had tried to rob them at a red light in the Mission Hill section of Boston.
The subsequent media circus turned the city upside-down for three months. The Boston Police arrested a Black man, Willie Bennett, despite having no evidence beyond Chuck’s description. Chuck identified Bennett in a police line-up. Racial tensions rose dangerously high.
Then on January 4, 1990, Chuck’s car was found abandoned on the Tobin Bridge in Chelsea with a suicide note left inside. Just hours before, Matthew Stuart, his youngest brother, had gone to the police and revealed what had really happened on that terrible October night.
Today’s guest is Joe Sharkey, whose book “Deadly Greed: The Riveting True Story of the Stuart Murder Case” chronicles the disturbing crime that turned Boston on its ear and reverberated across the United States. Joe is a former business travel columnist for The New York Times. He has written six critically acclaimed true-crime books, including the thrilling “Above Suspicion” which in 2019 was turned into a movie starring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones).
Join us while Joe shares his thoughts on looking back at the Stuart case, the challenges of writing on true crime — and his experience of surviving a mid-air jet collision at 35,000 feet over the Amazon.

“What do you think I am, a murderer?”: The Retrial of Diane Farley for the Murder of Sarah Ann Marsceill

That’s what Diane Farley said to her boyfriend, David Blatz, when he picked her up at 8 am from the house of her friend of just six weeks, Sarah Ann Marsceill, known as Sally. Diane and Sally had spent the night before drinking and doing cocaine. But David noticed what appeared to be blood stains on Diane’s clothes.

When David Stewart left his sister’s house in Dedham MA on the night of April 23, 1993, he didn’t know it would be the last time he’d ever see Sally alive. He found Sally’s body the following afternoon. She was lying face up on her bedroom floor wearing only a tee shirt. She had been stabbed eleven times and had defensive wounds on her hands and arms. The murder weapon was never found, and no motive ever established. Diane Farley was arrested and convicted of Sally’s murder.

Today’s guest is Judge Robert Cosgrove, who in 2002 was the prosecutor with the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office in Diane Farley’s retrial. Judge Cosgrove explains how the original conviction was overturned and retrial ordered because an appellate court found the original defense attorney’s work deficient (ineffective assistance of counsel). Judge Cosgrove will also discuss the nuts and bolts of a prosecutor’s preparation for a murder trial and the inherent problems with retrying a case.