The New York Criminal Law Blog

Denied Witch Doctor Witness, Man Pleads Guilty to Murder, Rape

"They put a curse on me ... They make you do anythings. Could make you die fast or go to jail. You always be mad and sad. This is a curs[e] ... There is something in my mind tell me you have to do this you have to anything bad make thing bad thing hurt people. I always think to make a suicide but I can't. I only think to get kill. I meet that girl Rita Morelli we was very friend for nine months before we have a relationship."

These were the words and planned defense of Bakary Camara, a man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend in her East Harlem apartment in late 2011, reports the Daily Mail. Rita Morelli, 36, was found murdered after an anonymous caller with a distinctive accent called 911 and reported her body two days after she was killed. When police called all of her contacts in her phone, they recognized Camara's Senegalese accent and tracked down his address.

When they arrived at his apartment, three blocks from the payphone used to report her murder, he refused to let the police enter. The police broke down the door and discovered him stabbing himself in the stomach. They found a rambling four page letter in his pocket containing the above statements. He was eventually charged with rape and predatory sexual assault after DNA evidence was discovered on Morelli's body, reports the Daily News.

Last week, both the prosecutor and Camara's attorney argued over the admissibility of testimony from a 'Witch Doctor' about curses. New York adheres to the Frye standard for admissibility of expert testimony, also known as the "general acceptance" test. This means that the proposed testimony must be based on science that is generally accepted in that community.

Arguably, curses, hexes, and spells (oh my!) might be accepted by the witch doctor community, and might therefore be admissible under the Frye standard. (There's a reason why nearly every state but NY and CA now follows a different test.) Though the proposed expert professed familiarity with the spells, hexes, and curses, he stopped short of qualifying himself as an actual witch doctor. The judge denied his testimony, stating, "He's certainly not an expert in witchcraft, curses or the types of curses the defendant claims he might have been under."

Denied his expert, Camara would have been left with little to no evidence to support his claims of being cursed. Today, he pleaded guilty to the murder and sexual assault and faces 25 years to life when he is sentenced.

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