Connecticut woman loses bid for new trial in murder-for-hire case depicted in books, TV shows



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HARTFORD, Connecticut — A Connecticut woman has lost her bid for a new trial in a murder-for-hire case that landed her in prison for life and was depicted in books and TV shows.

A Rockville Superior Court judge on Tuesday rejected arguments by former lawyer and Ledyard resident Beth Carpenter that her lawyers made mistakes at her trial, according to a court ruling obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Carpenter, 51, was convicted of murder and conspiracy in 2002 for plotting with her lover and boss, Haiman Clein, to kill her brother-in-law, Anson "Buzz" Clinton. Carpenter and her parents believed Clinton, a onetime exotic dancer, was abusing his 3-year-old stepdaughter, who was Carpenter's niece.

Clein ended up being the star witness against Carpenter at her trial, testifying that it was Carpenter's idea to kill Clinton. He said he was in love with Carpenter and believed her niece was being abused, so he hired and paid Mark Despres to kill Clinton.

Despres gunned down Clinton in East Lyme in 1994. He initially admitted that he was paid $5,500 for the hit but later recanted.

Clein was an admitted cocaine user, and Despres was a drug dealer and one of Clein's clients. Both were convicted in the plot. Clein is serving 35 years in prison, and Despres is serving 45 years.

Insisting that she had nothing to with the plot, Carpenter maintained that Clein planned the killing without her knowledge because he loved her and wanted to impress her.

Carpenter fled to Ireland after the killing and was arrested there in 1997. To secure her return to Connecticut, state prosecutors had to agree to not seek the death penalty because Ireland does not allow capital punishment.

Carpenter's lawyer, Norman Pattis, said Wednesday that he planned to take the case to federal court.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Proto said state prosecutors agree with the decision, but he declined to comment further because the case is considered pending over the expected appeal.

Carpenter filed a petition seeking a new trial in 2012. Superior Court Judge Samuel Sferrazza heard testimony over several days and ruled Tuesday that Carpenter did not prove her allegations that her trial attorneys, Hugh Keefe and Tara Knight, were ineffective.

Carpenter's arguments included that Keefe and Knight failed to advise her to consider taking a plea bargain and failed to preserve for appeal the trial court's denials of her motion for a change of venue.

At least two books have been written about the case, "Murder: A Family Affair" by Ernest Dorling and "Lethal Guardian" by M. William Phelps. It also has been the subject of several television true-crime shows, including "Snapped" on the Oxygen network and "Mugshots" on truTV.

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