50-to-life: Convicted ax murderer Christopher Porco gets the maximum sentence, after emotional testimony from him, and his family, in court Tuesday.
Christopher was not expected to speak during Tuesday's sentencing, but he gave a surprise short statement, minutes before Judge Jeffrey Berry gave him the maximum sentence allowed by law.
"I was never able to say goodbye to my dad before he was taken from us, and the idea that he was disappointed in me before he died will always haunt me," Christopher said. "I miss my dad so much, and my heart aches for my mom who is the strongest person I will ever know."
A tough sentence was expected, but Porco's speech came as a surprise. Christopher stood up in court and professed his innocence, before Judge Berry sentenced him to spend the next 50 years-to-life in prison, for killing his father and brutally maiming his mother.
"I am confident that with time, wrongs will be righted...but I hold no illusion that there ever will be true justice or my mom and my dad," Porco said.
Just like during the seven-week trial, Joan Porco entered the courthouse Tuesday morning, arm-in-arm with one of her sons - only this time, it was Jonathan Porco, not Christopher.
The first victim impact statement came from Peter Porco's sister, Patty Szostak, who addressed the court, and her nephew, about what she has lost.
"We will never again hear his cheerful voice on the phone, or exchange silly e-mails with him," Szostak said. "We will never go on a trip together again, or meet for dinner, or celebrate a holiday or milestone together."
With breaks in her voice, she also talked about what haunts her to this day.
"But what's hardest of all, is imagining his terror at being awakened in the night in his own bed, to the repeated, crushing blows of an ax, and most likely to the agonized screams of his wife," said Szostak. "I never stop wondering what was happening for Peter as he lay in that blood-soaked bed, with his brutally injured wife beside him."
Joan Porco asked that her face not be shown while inside the courtroom, but in her soft-spoken voice, she pleaded with Judge Berry for a light sentence, still insisting her son could not have done this.
"With every ounce of my being, I can not accept that Christopher could have, or would have chosen to butcher us in any conceivable way, or any conceivable reason," Joan Porco told the judge.
But the one person nobody expected to hear from, was Christopher Porco, who still insisting he did not kill his father and leave his mother for dead.
"Crimes are not solved by plucking a motive out of a cloud of conjecture and half-truths, and attempting to shape pieces of a puzzle so that they all fit together," Christopher said. "By caving into public pressure to hold the most convenient suspect responsible, the police deprived all of us the justice we are entitled to."
Judge Berry told Christopher, "the sentence that's being imposed upon you, is the sentence because I fear very much that what happened in the early hours of November 2004 is something likely to happen again."
Defense attorneys say that Porco's decision to speak in court was something that he made at the last minute. They believe it was in part to address his mother, in part to address Judge Berry, and in part to address the community.
Over the past two years, throughout his arrest and trial, prosecutors have pointed to Porco's lack of remorse. And they say the first time he addressed the court was no different.
"I certainly didn't expect to hear from him, and when we infact did, it did not surprise me at all," says Albany County District Attorney David Soares. "There has been no acceptance of responsibility, no show of remorse from day one."
"But you're at a 'Catch-22'," says Laurie Shanks, Porco's attorney. "If you're an innocent person, and you maintain your innocence, that can hurt you."
Porco's attorneys say they planned to file their notice of appeal late Tuesday afternoon.
Christopher will spend Tuesday night behind bars at the Albany County Jail, while his lawyers are busy shaping an argument for the appeal, and combing through every word from Judge Berry in Tuesday's sentencing.
Porco will be transferred to a maximum security facility Wednesday morning.
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