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Judge rules against Scott Doll in latest appeal of 2010 murder conviction

By Howard B. Owens

The latest attempt by Scott F. Doll to get his 2010 conviction for murder overturned has failed to persuade another judge and his appeal based on what his attorney claimed was new evidence has been denied.

Attorney Michael S. Deal, from the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, filed a motion to overturn the conviction earlier this year. A hearing on his motion was heard by Judge Sanford A. Church on March 10.

Deal argued that he had uncovered new evidence related to the failure of the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office to collect fingernail scrapings from Doll's victim, Joseph Benaquist, and new DNA tests of people who might have had access to the murder scene should lead to Doll's conviction being overturned and a new trial granted.

Church ruled that the defendant did not present a factual assertion that the two pieces of "newly discovered evidence" could not have been available for the 2010 trial. 

"As discussed below, a sound defense trial strategy could have been to avoid further scientific testing and emphasizing the prosecution's failure to test some evidence," Church wrote. "The defense was aware, for example, of the drops of blood on the victim's boot before trial and that it had not be subjected to DNA profiling. All they had to do was ask that it be tested."

The defense could have also asked that fingernail scrapings be tested.  If the defense had made the request, the attorneys would have learned that clippings and scrapings had not been collected.

As for a bit of third-party DNA found on the victim's boot, that evidence could have been available at trial, Sanford said. There were photographs available to the defense that showed a possible bloodstain on the victim's boot.  The defense, he said, could have insisted that the bloodstain be tested.

Prior court rulings have found that for evidence to be considered "new" in an appeal, it must be evidence that could not have been discovered by the defense through diligence. 

It's also not readily apparent that the DNA comparisons would change the outcome of the trial, Sanford ruled.

For these reasons, Doll has failed to prove that his "new evidence" could not have been discovered before trial.

Church, an Orleans County judge, heard the appeal because Genesee County Court Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini formerly worked for the Genesee County District Attorney's Office and had been involved in prior appeals, so she had a conflict of interest.

Doll was sentenced to 15 years to life for the 2009 murder of Benaquist. He has consistently maintained his innocence since his arrest.

On the night of Feb. 16, 2009, Doll was found walking in Pembroke in blood-soaked clothing by a deputy and questioned.  Due to the suspicious nature of his appearance and a van he identified himself as operating earlier in the evening, he was questioned by investigators who feared there was a seriously hurt or dead person in the area.  Those emergency circumstances allowed investigators wide leeway in questioning Doll and searching for a possible victim. Several hours later, Benaquist's badly beaten body was found in the driveway of his home in Pembroke.

Benaquist and Doll, a prison guard, had been partners in a used car business.

For all of The Batavian's prior coverage of Scott Doll, click here.

Attorneys grapple over interpretation of law and facts in Scott Doll motion hearing

By Howard B. Owens

An attorney for Scott Doll, convicted of murder in 2010, thinks there are questions about the case that deserve answers, but the looming question is whether he convinced a judge in Genesee County on Friday that the law allows for those questions to be asked in a hearing.

"We have too many questions in this case, too many whys," said Attorney Michael S. Deal, from the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, near the end of a nearly 90-minute hearing before Judge Sanford Church. 

"Scott Doll was sentenced to 15 years to life. He has served 13 years in prison. There are questions about significant evidence, whether it was collected or not, and questions about DNA at the scene when the theory of the prosecution was that Scott Doll was the sole person who committed the crime.

"There is some evidence of another person present," he added. "There is an unknown footprint in the snow.

"We should be interested in the answers to these questions. We shouldn't have these questions floating around in a case as serious as this, what was or was not collected when it was testified that it was? Why was there DNA there that is not the victim's and not Mr. Doll's? We're not sure. There is absolutely enough evidence and enough questions as to what happened in this case to warrant a hearing."

Whether there is enough evidence, and new evidence at that, to warrant a hearing under Criminal Procedure Law Article 440 is one of the questions that Church must answer.  

Deal and Assistant District Attorney William Zickl provided him with passages from the statute that seem contradictory.

On one hand, Church shouldn't decide whether the evidence that might be presented at a hearing would lead him to overturn Doll's conviction. There is case law that says that the quality of the evidence shouldn't be the deciding factor. The language of 440 says he can order the hearing purely "in the interest of justice." 

On the other hand, Zickl argued, the defense failed to make the case that there is any basis to hold a hearing under the language of the statute.  The pleading is deficient in substance and substantiation and therefore fails to meet the standards to proceed with the motion, according to the language of CPL 440.

Doll, 60, formerly of Corfu, was convicted in a jury trial of murder in the beating death of former business partner Joseph Benaquist. During the trial and for the past 13 years, Doll has maintained he didn't kill Benaquist.  He wants a chance to prove to a new jury that there is evidence that somebody else was at the scene of the murder before he arrived and found Benaquist already dead.

Church, who is a judge in Orleans County, is hearing the case because County Court Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini recused herself over a conflict of interest.  She formerly worked in the District Attorney's Office at the time of Doll's trial and subsequent motions.

The new facts Deal is asking Church to consider as new evidence is an apparent admission by Scott LaPoint, a deputy medical examiner in Monroe County, that it was policy and normal procedure to collect fingernail scrapings from a victim in a murder case. That didn't happen in the Doll case.  

Also, Deal says, new DNA tests of one of Doll's family members and two of Benaquist's do not match third-party DNA found on one of the victim's boots.

Deal is trying to thread a needle, and Church asked some seemingly skeptical questions.

A motion to vacate Doll's conviction must be based on new evidence.

In 2016, a motion to vacate was made on the discovery that, contrary to LaPoint's testimony at trial, no fingernail scrapings were taken from Benaquist. Based on defense motions during the appeal process, new testing of the blood-spattered clothing from the crime scene was ordered by Judge Robert Noonan.  That led to the discover of DNA that apparently matches neither Doll nor Benaquist.

So, the jury did not know that there were no fingernail scrapings taken from Benaquist and the jury did not know that about the possibility of third-party DNA at the scene of the crime.

That motion to vacate based on these then-new discoveries was rejected by then interim County Court Judge Michael F. Pietruszka on the ground that if the new evidence had been available to the jury, it wouldn't have led to an acquittal for Doll.

Doll lost subsequent appeals of Pietruszka's decision.

Since those two facts have been adjudicated, they can no longer be considered "new evidence."

That leaves Deal arguing that what Pietruszka didn't know at the time of his decision was that, by policy and procedure in the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office, LaPoint should have collected fingernail scrapings. The fact that LaPoint didn't, despite the policy and usual practice, raises a question as to why, and that question deserves an answer that can only be obtained in a hearing, Deal reasoned.

Church wanted to know if Deal was implying something underhanded went on in the case, and Deal walked carefully around that question.

"What we need is a hearing to fully explore what happened with that evidence," Deal said. "Why wasn't it collected? What if anything is going on, or is it something else? We don't know, and we should know. This is a man's life."

Church accused Deal of a fishing expedition, and Deal said that isn't the case. 

"If we have a hearing, Mr. LaPoint comes in and testifies under oath, bringing his notes, bring whatever else might be related, to help his recollection," Deal said.

The DNA comparison from relatives of the defendant and victim is significant, Deal said, because it means some person unknown to the defendant was at the scene of the murder, substantiating Doll's claim that he wasn't there at the time of the murder.

According to Zickl, none of this represents new evidence; to the degree that it does or might, it is of minimal importance, he said.

First, Zickl argued that Deal's motion is insufficient on technical grounds. The information from LaPoint about policies and procedures isn't in the form of an affidavit, and the same is true of the new DNA results.

"It is required that the defendant support his motion and substantiate all essential facts of his claim," Zickl said. "That substantiation has not occurred based on these papers."

Beyond that, even if Doll were granted a new trial and LaPoint testified that yes, fingernail scrapings should have been taken, and no, they weren't, and he didn't know why, that wouldn't persuade a jury to reach a different verdict faced with the overwhelming physical evidence of Doll's guilt.

The jury heard testimony in 2010 that the fingernail scrapings were not tested for DNA. The only thing that's changed is that LaPoint was mistaken, Zickl said, in testifying that fingernail scrapings were taken when they were not.

The defense had the opportunity before the trial to request a test on the scrapings. The defense did not make such a request.

Benaquist was murdered, beaten to death, on Feb. 16, 2009, in the driveway of his home in Pembroke. Before his body was found, a deputy came across Doll walking on South Lake Road in a jumpsuit covered in blood.  At trial, a blood spatter expert testified that the patterns of blood on Doll's clothing and face were consistent with an assault on another person.

Deal has noted that Benaquist had defensive wounds on his hands, but Doll was found to have sustained no injuries the night of the murder.

As for the third-party DNA, Zickl said the Medical Examiner's report does not conclude that the DNA comes from blood and that it is mixed in with Benaquist's blood.  It's not as clear cut as Deal asserts that there was third-party blood on Benquist's boot.

Deal wants a hearing, also, so the DNA sample can be submitted to a national crime database to see if it matches anybody in that database.  That would answer the question, perhaps, of who else was at the murder scene, Deal said. Zickl said the fragment of DNA isn't of sufficient quality for that kind of test. Deal said it was sufficient enough to know it didn't match the family members tested.

Zickl said, based on Noonan's order during the previous appeal, that the defense requested dozens of new areas on clothing be tested.

"Out of the dozens of areas, this one area produced this fragment of DNA that could not be attributed to the defendant or the victim, though Joseph Benaquist is a major contributor of the sample that includes this biological substance. We don't know how, why, or even what this biological substance comprised."

Deal said in his papers and mentioned it again during Friday's hearing that a blood splatter expert has stated the DNA sample could have only arrived on Benaquist's boot at the time of a struggle. 

Zickl implicitly disputed that claim.

"There is so much not known about this fragment," Zickl added. "We don't know when it was deposited, who, or what it is."

Despite Zickl's insistence that the abundance of evidence points to Scott Doll's guilt and nothing new has been presented that would suggest he didn't kill Joseph Benaquist, Deal maintained that Doll deserves a legally substantiated answer to the questions that still dangle in the case.

"When you stand back and look at all the pieces, there are good reasons to believe that someone else was at this crime scene when this crime occurred," Deal said.

Many members of Doll's family attended the hearing. After the hearing, Dawn Doll, Scott's step-sister, leaned over to a reporter and said, "There is a murderer out there who is free."

For all of The Batavian's prior coverage of Scott Doll, click here.

File photo: Scott Doll's 2009 Genesee County Jail booking photo.

Scott Doll takes another swing at overturning his 2010 murder conviction

By Howard B. Owens


NOTE: Story updated at 10 a.m. to include additional background on the murder.

In the nearly 13 years since his conviction for murder in the second degree in the bludgeoning death of his former business partner Joseph Benaquist, Scott F. Doll, now 60 years of age, has filed multiple appeals.

A judge will consider whether he can proceed with a new motion to vacate his May 2010 conviction at a hearing on Friday.

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Feb. 16, 2009, Doll was found by Deputy James Diehl walking on North Lake Road, Pembroke. Doll had what appeared to be blood on his clothing. Later blood was also found on a vehicle he had been driving. At trial, a blood spatter expert testified the pattern of blood on Doll's clothing and face was consistent with a physical altercation.

Sheriff's investigators responded, and Doll was detained and questioned.  Investigators felt convinced there was a human victim of a crime and wanted to know where that victim might be.

At 1:30 a.m., Benaquist's body was found in the driveway of his home. He had suffered head trauma, and there was a substantial amount of blood at the scene.

While investigators concluded a weapon had been used to beat Benaquist, no weapon was ever recovered.

Doll was prosecuted by now-retired District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, and Doll's lead defense attorney was Paul Cambria. The jury trial lasted from May 3 to May 20, 2010.  Doll was sentenced on July 2, 2010, by Judge Robert Noonan, now retired, to 15 years to life.

Attorney Michael S. Deal, from the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, filed this latest motion on Doll's behalf on Oct. 19.

The motion, which must show there is new evidence not available at trial, is largely based on an investigation conducted by a private investigator, Tony Olivio, of Buffalo, that included interviewing 18 witnesses, the review of hundreds of pages of police reports and documents, and collecting DNA samples from family members of Doll and Benaquist.

Deal argues that Monroe County Medical Examiner Scott F. LaPoint mistakenly testified at trial in 2010 that fingernail clippings from Benaquist were examined for evidence. That isn't new evidence. That issue was raised by Doll in a 2016 appeal, which he lost.  What is new, apparently, is that Olivio interviewed LaPoint as part of his investigation, and LaPoint had no clear explanation for why standard procedure wasn't followed in this case.

There was also third-party DNA found on the boot of Benaquist, a fact not discovered prior to Doll's murder trial. This, too, was part of the 2016 appeal.  The new evidence appears to be DNA tests that eliminate one of Doll's family members and two of Benaquist's family members as potential participants in the murder. It's not the DNA of any of these three people at the scene, making it likely, Deal argues, that an unknown person was at the scene when Benaquist struggled with his assailant.  

According to Deal, the fact that it wasn't a family member indicates it was somebody unknown to Doll, lending credence to the suggestion that Doll wasn't even at the scene at the time of the murder.

While forensic evidence indicates, Deal states, that Benaquist struggled with his assailant, Doll suffered no injuries the night of Feb. 19, 2009. 

The 2016 appeal was heard by interim County Court Judge Micheal F. Pietruszka. According to Deal, Pietruszka erred in his ruling by stating that the DNA sample was found on Doll's clothing and, therefore, would not have altered the jury's decision.

Pietruszka's ruling was appealed, and Doll lost each appeal.

Assistant District Attorney William Zickl states in his answering statement that there is really nothing new in this new motion.

"These claims are no more than a repacking and rebranding of the defendant's previous arguments, culled from his 2016 motion to vacate, which were rejected by the Genesee County Court and the Appellate Divison, Fourth Department, as well as the Court of Appeals," Zickl states. "Because no new evidence or circumstances have been identified by the defendant in this instant motion which would complete, or even suggest, that a new trial should be ordered, his application should be summarily denied."

Deal wants the third-party DNA sample sent to a national criminal DNA database, which could uncover a possible match with a person in the database, a motion opposed by the District Attorney's Office.

Zickl states that the conversation between Olivio and LaPoint sheds no new light on the case.  The DNA evidence, including the DNA tests of relatives, could have been presented at trial if the defense had made a motion to get all the DNA evidence from Benaquist's boot (the DNA spot wasn't discovered until more testing was ordered as part of the appeal process in 2015). 

The defense could have also uncovered at trial, with more diligence, that fingernail clippings were not taken by the Medical Examiner's Office, according to Zickl.

"Even if the evidence were admitted at trial, it would serve to merely impeach or contradict the previous testimony of Dr. LaPoint," Zickl states.

"The defendant has not established a possibility, let alone a probability, that this new evidence would have changed the result of the trial," Zickl continues. "At trial, the defendant took full advantage of the argument that the investigation was fatally flawed because the people did not request DNA testing of the victim's fingernail scrapings, which were believed at the time to exist. It strains logic to suggest now that there would have been any greater impact upon the jury had the defendant been able to argue that the investigation was fatally flawed because the Medical Examiner's Office had neglected to take the scrapings in the first place."

In a response to Zickl's argument, Deal takes issue with "the people's" position that the third-party DNA is "partial" or "minor" and that it may not even be from blood.  He said the Medical Examiner's report indicates it was blood, and a blood splatter expert said it could have only landed on the boot during a struggle between Benaquist and his assailant. 

As for the opportunity to have obtained the DNA sample before trial, that simply wasn't logically possible, Deal argues.

"The idea that somehow the defendant would know of that exact spot (that particular couple of centimeters) on the boot to be tested, as opposed to all of the other blood-drenched items -- and then would have discovered it before -- is particularly unreasonable. 

Deal believes that the new evidence combined with other facts that could be presented at trial could lead to a more favorable outcome for his client.

"This court is reminded that this is a circumstantial evidence case," Deal writes in his brief. "A crucial fact ignored by the people below is that there was a shoeprint in the snow found in the driveway where the victim was found, which was determined not to be from either the defendant or the victim.  A jury hearing new information about a third party's DNA being on the victim's clothing along with the discovery of a mysterious footprint at the crime scene, on top of the Medical Examiner's malfeasance, when combined with the fact that the 220-pound victim had defensive injuries on his hands while Mr. Doll suffered absolutely no injuries would certainly never be so unfazed as Judge Pietruszka would have us believe."

Doll, now housed at the Hudson Correctional Facility, has consistently maintained his innocence. He is eligible for his first parole hearing in December 2024.

Judge Sanford Church, of Orleans County, is hearing the motion because of Genesee County Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini's conflict of interest in the case.  She was an ADA in the District Attorney's Office during the trial and subsequent appeals.

For all of The Batavian's prior coverage of Scott Doll, click here.

File photo: Scott Doll's 2009 Genesee County Jail booking photo.

Court turns down latest appeal request from Scott Doll on murder conviction

By Howard B. Owens
     File Photo: Scott Doll

An attempt by Scott F. Doll to get his 2010 murder conviction overturned has hit a final state-level roadblock, with New York's Court of Appeals turning down a request for either a hearing or a new trial based on Doll's lack of legal right to seek the appeal.

An attorney for Doll, Timothy Murphy, argued in January 2016, before Interim County Court Judge Micheal Pietruszka, that his client should get a new trial because of what he believed was a mishandling of fingernail scrapings from the murder victim, Joseph Benaquist, and the possibility of third-party blood DNA on one of the boots of Benaquist.

Pietruszka denied the appeal and Murphy appealed to the Fourth Department of the New York Court of Appeals and a judge there ruled that the department wouldn't hear the appeal or grant a new trial.

Today, a judge with the state's Court of Appeals issued a ruling that said Doll was asking for an appeal on issues that were not appealable. 

For previous Scott Doll coverage, click here.

Attorney for Scott Doll seeks hearing on missing fingernail scrapings

By Howard B. Owens
   File Photo: Scott Doll

The attorney handling the murder conviction appeal of Scott F. Doll is asking for a hearing on why a Monroe County medical examiner testified during Doll's trial that fingernail clippings were taken and retained from the victim, Joseph Benaquist, when they were not.

Timothy Murphy argued his motion today in Superior Court, but presiding judge Michael F. Pieturszka was full of skeptical questions. 

Repeatedly, in various ways, Pieturszka asked Murphy what would be gained by a hearing when it's already known that the evidence doesn't exist. A hearing isn't going to suddenly produce the evidence, the judge noted.

Murphy argued that is presumably in the best interest of the court to find out why the trial judge -- Robert C. Noonan -- was misled about the existence of the fingernail clippings. Murphy also repeatedly stated that he didn't blame the DA's Office for the missing evidence, but he thinks the ME's Office should explain the now clearly false testimony that the evidence was collected.

At the time of trial, neither the DA nor the defense, led by Paul Cambria, requested DNA evidence from the fingernail clippings. The lack of the evidence was only discovered after Judge Robert C. Noonan, now retired, ordered the Monroe County ME's Office produce it.

Scott LaPoint, a deputy ME, testified in Doll's trial that the evidence is routinely collected and that it was collected in this instance.

Pieturszka asked what the pratical result of a hearing might be since a hearing wouldn't make evidence appear that didn't exist.

"The court is entitled to know why an order was not enforced and fully enforced," Murphy said, arguing that it was in the best interest of the court to find out why false testimony was given and why the ME's Office wasn't able to satisfactorily produce evidence Noonan ordered produced.

The fact that there may have been a third person's DNA at the scene of the crime, on Benaquist's left boot, made the inquiry all the more important, Murphy asserted, but Pieturszka asked whether even that fact was relevant without any idea of how the DNA came to be introduced into the crime scene.

It's an incomplete DNA sample, so a third person cannot be identified with it. There's no indication that, if there was a third person present, it was at the time Benaquist was killed, or if it was on Benaquist's boot prior to the attack, or if it accidently came from an investigator after the fact.

ADA Will Zickl argued that even if Murphy's request had merit, it wasn't related to the motion presently before the court. Zickl said Murphy could bring a new motion to uncover the information he seeks, but the fact that the evidence doesn't exist and can't be produced ends the original motion that prompted the discovery of the mistake.

Murphy also wants hair samples from Benaquist subjected to DNA testing to see if any third-party DNA might be found. But Zickl argued that it was such a bloody crime scene and the hair was covered so thoroughly with Benaquist's blood, there is nothing to be gained by another round of tests.

"The pulled hair samples are not worth the trouble it would take the lab to test it in light of the circumstances," Zickl said.

Pieturszka is reserving his decision until a later date. He gave Murphy two weeks to file a memo supporting his position, and Zickl two weeks after that to produce an answering memo.

Previously: DNA sample can't be matched to 2009 murder victim, nor the man convicted of killing him

Forl all previous coverage of the Scott Doll case, click here.

DNA sample can't be matched to 2009 murder victim, nor the man convicted of killing him

By Howard B. Owens
   File Photo: Scott Doll

A single DNA sample obtained at the scene where Joseph Benaquist was found murdered Feb. 19, 2009 does not match the DNA profile of the victim and may not match that of the man convicted by a jury for his murder, Scott F. Doll, according to a recent report produced by the Monroe County Crime Laboratory.

The laboratory, in compliance with a court order issued by Judge Robert C. Noonan in April, examined about two dozen blood samples from the crime scene and determined that the left boot of Benaquist had two possible blood stains. One of the DNA profiles, the lab found, clearly matches the DNA profile of Benaquist, but the other is insufficient to match either Benaquist or Doll.

Appeals attorney Timothy Murphy, in a Dec. 16 letter to Doll at the Elmira Correctional Facility, characterized this finding as promising news. He said the report indicates a third person's DNA was found at the scene.

There is no information available on who the DNA sample might match. Neither Benaquist nor Doll are ruled out as a possible match.

The report reads:

The minor component of the DNA profile is insufficient to support an inclusion or exclusion and is therefore not suitable for comparison. No further conclusions can be reached regarding the minor component mixture.

The lab-tested bloodstains are from the roadway near Benaquist's home at 683 Knapp Road, Pembroke, from the driveway at the residence, from both of Benaquist's boots, from a shirt, a sock and a jacket.

Only the left boot contains a DNA profile that can't be matched to any known person.

The lab report is part of a set of documents provided to The Batavian by Andrew Doll, brother of Scott Doll.

The documents also contain a letter from Monroe County Medical Examiner Caroline Dignan stating that contrary to testimony from Monroe County Deputy Medical Examiner Scott LaPoint in the trial of Doll, no fingernail clippings were collected during the autopsy of Benaquist.

LaPoint testified that such clippings were always collected in a murder investigation and that procedure was followed in this case.

This new evidence, along with additional information, has Andrew Doll feeling even more skeptical about his brother's murder conviction. These include: the unexpected lack of fingernail clippings; his belief that the driveway at 683 Knapp Road was washed down within 24 hours of the murder being discovered; and that a murder weapon has never been recovered.

He's never felt, he said, that his brother has the temperament to become so angry and so out of control that he would bludgeon to death one of his very best friends. There is simply no reason Scott Doll would have killed the 66-year-old Benaquist, Andrew Doll said.

"I just feel there is more to this than what's on the surface," Andrew Doll said. "There seems to be a lot of loose ends that need to be looked at. For the sake of both families, I'm hopeful we can get to some kind of conclusion."

Andrew said his brother asked that the evidence be shared with local media because he wants people to know he's not a murderer.

Scott Doll has maintained his innocence from the beginning and leveraged his life savings along with family money to hire a nationally known attorney from Buffalo, Paul Cambria, to mount his defense at trial. Since his conviction in June 2010, Doll has pursued a couple of appeals. His murder conviction was upheld by the NYS Supreme Court in July 2012.

Last year, Murphy filed a new appeal seeking a reexamination of the DNA evidence used in the case.

Two days ago, Murphy scheduled an interview about the new development in the case for this morning. But then Murphy said he decided he could not comment on the case at this time.

We don't know, therefore, what will happen next with the case, what strategy Murphy will pursue to press forward with an appeal, or if that's even in the cards.

So far we've been unable to reach ADA Will Zickl, who is handling the Doll appeal for the District Attorney's Office.

Doll was sentenced to 15-years-to-life in state prison, the minimum sentence available to Judge Robert C. Noonan on Doll's murder conviction. The way Andrew Doll sees it, he said, the minimum available sentence suggests strongly that even Noonan, who sat through the entire trial and heard all of the evidence, doesn't believe Scott Doll committed the murder.

Noonan stated during the sentencing that he thought Doll deserved a shot at parole before he was too old or would likely die in prison.

Scott Doll became a suspect when he was found by Deputy James Diehl wandering on Lake Street in Pembroke in blood-soaked overalls. During the course of the early part of the investigation, Doll made statements about the situation, including an assertion that the blood was from a deer he had butchered. The blood turned out to be that of the murder victim. For hours, Doll was in police custody but would not discuss where the blood came from or disclose the location of a person who might need medical attention. While in custody, he made statements that were later used against him at trial.

Andrew Doll acknowledged none of that made his brother look good.

"My brother did things that didn’t seem right and weren't right, and to this day, he doesn’t know what he did and why," Andrew Doll said.

Scott Doll granted motion to obtain untested DNA evidence

By Howard B. Owens

Prosecutors have 30 days to produce and turn over evidence in the Scott F. Doll murder case that may yield DNA from the Feb. 19, 2009 crime scene, Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled in a decision released this afternoon.

Doll's attorney, Timothy P. Murphy, filed a pair of appeals related to Doll's 2010 murder conviction, which has him serving a 15-years-to-life prison sentence.

While Noonan granted the DNA appeal, he ruled against Doll on his motion that he received inadequate trial counsel.

At a hearing earlier this week, ADA William Zickl couldn't confirm for Noonan whether the evidence that might yield DNA still existed.

Noonan ruled the evidence be turned over, "subject to any disagreement as to protocol for the custody and preservation of such evidence, which will then be resolved on application to the Court."

On the representation issue, Murphy argued that attorneys Paul Cambria and Daniel Killelea failed to raise objections to Doll's transport from Pembroke to the Sheriff's Office the morning of the murder based on Fourth Amendment provisions.

Noonan ruled that the defense attorneys did adequately raise objections and that the appeals process had already upheld decisions to allow evidence gathered during that process -- statements by Doll and his clothing -- to be admitted at trial.

Doll was convicted by a jury of beating to death a former business partner and prison guard coworker, Joseph Benaquist.

The defense is seeking further DNA testing to establish whether a third person was at the murder scene, which the defense contends, if the DNA testing had been done prior to trial, could have changed the outcome of the case. The prosecution contends the evidence against Doll is so overwhelming that even if a third person's DNA is found at the scene, Doll would still be found guilty of murder by a jury.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: We asked Sheriff Gary Maha if the evidence still existed and was secured. His one-word answer: "yes."

Attorneys argue appeal of Scott Doll murder conviction

By Howard B. Owens

Oral arguments in the latest appeal of Scott Doll's murder conviction were heard by Judge Robert C. Noonan this morning in Genesee County Court.

Timothy P. Murphy represented Doll and ADA William Zickl represented the people.

Murphy's appeal is based on a few key points:

  • There was no "emergency doctrine" need to transport Doll from Pembroke to the Sheriff's Office on Park Road the early morning of Feb. 19, 2009 after Doll was found in blood-covered clothes and blood was found on his vehicle parked at North Lake Road and Main Road. Doll, Murphy argued, was taken into the custody, not just merely held in an attempt to find out if somebody was hurt and in need of help;
  • There was no DNA evidence taken from under the fingernails of the murder victim, Joseph Benaquist. If there had been, it's possible the presence of a third party at the scene might have been discovered, which could have changed the outcome of the trial;
  • The failure of Doll's defense attorneys, Paul Cambria and Dan Killelea, to raise these issues at trial constitutes incompetent representation.

Zickl countered:

  • Doll's defense had every opportunity to raise these issues and did in fact raise these issues, at the trial level and through the appeals process and they lost on the rulings;
  • The emergency doctrine does apply to the transport of Doll because the emergency continued unabated until the body of Benaquist was discovered;
  • The transport was necessary because investigators felt certain that Doll was covered in human blood and even though they didn't yet know what happened, it was likely a crime might be discovered and the evidence needed to be secured, rather than letting Doll walk around in 10-degree weather;
  • Because Noonan served as trial judge, he knows Doll received a vigorous, cogent and coherent defense that can hardly be characterized as incompetent;
  • Even if DNA had been collected, and even granting for the sake of argument that a third-party presence might have established, that fact wouldn't have changed the outcome of the case. The evidence that Doll killed Benaquist is simply overwhelming and conclusive. Where Murphy argued that physical evidence indicates Benaquist was involved in a struggle against attackers, Zickl argued the evidence is clear that Benaquist was ambushed and had little opportunity to defend himself. 

Noonan said he should have a written ruling in about a week.

Scott Doll's motion for dismissal without merit ADA argues

By Howard B. Owens

One of the main issues in a motion by an attorney for Scott F. Doll to dismiss his 2010 murder conviction isn't supported by the court record, Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl is arguing in an answering affidavit released Friday.

Doll's attorney, Timothy Murphy, argued in his motion that investigators didn't have probable cause to detain Doll after he was found in blood-soaked overalls on North Lake Road, Pembroke, the night of Feb. 19, 2009.

Doll was convicted by a jury of murder for beating to death Joseph Benaquist, a former coworker of Doll's and occasional partner in a used car business, at the victim's home in Pembroke.

He is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence in State Prison.

The failure of Doll's defense team -- Paul Cambria and Daniel Killilea -- to raise the issue of the detention constitutes insufficient legal representation, Murphy argues.

Zickl counters that Murphy fails to establish a factual basis for his motion. He argues that at the trial court level, the defendant challenged the legality of his detention, including his transport to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, in his motion to suppress statements Doll made to investigators.

Doll has already lost an appeal on the legality of his being questioned without being read his rights.

An appeals court found that questioning Doll was legal under what's known as the "emergency doctrine." Since investigators had reason to believe a person may be injured and in immediate need of assistance if located, they need not advise Doll of his right to remain silent.

Zickl argues that Doll received a vigorous and well-crafted defense during all phases of the case.

"A cohesive and closely tailored theory of the Defendant's innocence was cogently presented to the jury by the defense team," Zickl writes.

Zickl asks that since the record is so clear, Doll's motion be denied without a hearing.

As for Doll's motion for further DNA testing, Zickl argues that further testing won't produce different results.

"A central premise of the Defendant's motion is that the victim and the perpetrator were involved in a 'struggle' and as a result it is likely that genetic material would be found underneath the victim's fingernails or on his clothes," Zickl writes.

"This theory is not supported in the record. In fact, the record is more consistent with a theory of an ambush and rapid incapacitation of the victim by the Defendant.

"Even assuming, arguendo (for the sake of argument), that the requested genetic testing had produced a profile other than the Defendant's, it would not explain or diminish the overwhelming evidence of the Defendant's guilt, such as the volume, distribution and appearance of the victim's blood on his person, his clothes and his vehicle."

Noonan will rule on the motions at a later date.

For previous Scott Doll coverage, click here.

Attorney files motion arguing Scott Doll didn't get a fair trial for 2009 murder

By Howard B. Owens

An attorney representing Scott F. Doll has filed a motion to vacate the former Corfu resident's 2010 murder conviction on the grounds that Doll's rights were violated the night of his arrest and his trial counsel's failure to raise the issue of specific rights being violated constituted inadequate representation.

Timothy Murphy is also asking for DNA testing on fingernail scrapings from the victim, Joseph Benaquist, a former coworker of Doll's and occasional partner in a used car business.

Murphy argues in a 22-page motion that there was no probable cause to detain Doll for more than three hours the night of the murder and then later transport him to the Sheriff's Office for further questioning.

Doll previously lost an appeal over the police interrogation, despite the fact he was never read his Miranda warnings, under a legal theory known as the "emergency doctrine," which allows police questioning if they believe a person's life may be in danger.

The night of Feb. 19, 2009, emergency dispatchers received a call about a suspicious condition on North Lake Road, Pembroke. 

Deputy James Diehl responded to the scene and located Doll walking on North Lake Road in overalls and carrying a tire jack in one hand.  

When Diehl approached, he noticed that Doll's overalls were covered in blood.

At one point, Doll claimed it was blood from a deer he had recently butchered.

At the time, there was no missing person report on Benaquist and his body wouldn't be found for another four and a half hours.

In arguing for the emergency doctrine exception for questioning Doll on North Lake Road and later at the Sheriff's Office, the prosecution contended that deputies and investigators found the blood suspicious and Doll's inconsistent statements troubling.

They suspected a crime had been committed and that perhaps a victim was still alive and in need of assistance, thereby justifying trying to get information out of Doll that might lead them to a victim.

Murphy argues that in rejecting Doll's appeal on those grounds, the Appeals Court found that there was no probable cause for taking Doll into custody and then transporting Doll to the Sheriff's Office.

There is prior case law that prohibits both actions without probable cause, according to Murphy's motion.

Detaining Doll for three hours at the scene exceeds the police's authority to "stop and frisk" a person under suspicious circumstances, Murphy argues.

The failure of Doll's defense counsel, led by nationally renowned defense attorney Paul Cambria, and assisted by Daniel Killelea, to object during the trial stage to the custody and transport of Doll constitutes a procedural error that compromised Doll's right to a fair trial.

Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl has written a response, but it has not yet been filed with the court, so it's not yet a public document. 

A hearing on the motion was scheduled for this morning, but was postponed to March 10 to give Murphy more time to read and respond to Zickl's answer.

For previous coverage of Scott Doll, click here.

Supreme Court won't consider appeal of convicted murderer Scott F. Doll

By Howard B. Owens
Mug shot of Scott Doll
the morning of his arrest.

The murder conviction of Scott F. Doll stands.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case, ending his chain of appeals on his conviction of murder in the death of Joseph Benaquist.

On Feb. 16, 2009, Doll killed Benaquist outside the victim's home using some sort of blunt object. The murder weapon was never located. Doll and Benaquist and been involved in car sales transactions in the past, and Benaquist may have been killed over a car deal gone wrong.

Doll was convicted in May 2010 following a 13-day jury trial in Genesee County Court.

Judge Robert C. Noonan gave Doll a 15-years-to-life prison term.  Doll remains incarcerated and is eligible for parole in 2025.

Doll has pursued appeals through county court, district court and federal court. At each step, his attempts to overturn his conviction have been denied.

The Fourth Department upheld his conviction 3-2 on July 26, 2012.

Assistant district attorneys William G. Zickl and Melissa L. Cianfrini filed a 78-page brief with the state Court of Appeals in November 2012 opposing Doll's appeal to that court.

The case was argued before the court in Albany Sept. 3.

The court denied the appeal by unanimous decision Oct. 17.

Doll's attorneys then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and three days ago, the court handed down a written order denying the petition.

Among Doll's challenges was that he should have been read his rights after he was found walking on Lake Road in Pembroke in blood-covered overalls. The Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office has maintained that because there may have been a victim in need of medical assistance, the "emergency doctrine" applied and investigators were not required to read Doll's his Miranda warnings under those circumstances. It was hours after Doll was first approached on Lake Road before Benaquist's body was found. The statements Doll made during that time were used against him during his trial.

Doll isn't necessarily out of appeals. He could conceivably decide to appeal his conviction on other grounds, but he's out of appeals on the grounds that he wasn't properly read his rights.

NY State Court of Appeals unanimously upholds Scott Doll's murder conviction

By Billie Owens
Mug shot of Scott Doll the morning of his arrest.

Today the New York State Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the murder conviction of Scott Doll.

A jury found him guilty on May 20, 2010 of killing Joseph Benaquist, a fellow former corrections officer and business partner.

The main consideration of the appellate judges was whether the police took appropriate action under what's known as the emergency doctrine in detaining Doll without reading him his Miranda warnings and initially interviewing him without an attorney present. Law enforcement's response "to a serious and ongoing exigent situation under the emergency doctrine" was deemed reasonable.

In the ruling by the seven justices, the circumstances of the case were recapped:

On Feb. 16, 2009, Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy James Diehl responded to a report of a suspicious person walking on Lake Road in Pembroke and he found a man wearing a camouflage hunting outfit and a white hood. The man dropped a metal object and pulled a lug wrench from his pocket and the officer saw what appeared to be wet blood stains on the man's knees, thighs, hands and shoes.

When asked, the man produced a correction officer identity card with his name on it -- Scott Doll, who proceeded to say he was out walking to lower his blood pressure because he had a doctor's appointment the next day. He asked for a ride to his van at a car lot and the deputy agreed to take him there.

Once inside the patrol car, the firefighter who initially placed the 9-1-1 call came to the scene and told the officer that he'd noticed the defendant at the lot and the guy turned away and crouched between two cars to try and hide. Based on this information, the deputy told the defendant he was being detained until the situation was assessed. Doll was frisked and handcuffed.

When asked about the blood on his clothes, Doll said his was wearing his camouflage outfit because it was cold, but didn't explain why the clothes had wet blood on them. The deputy drove Doll to his van and discovered blood in several places inside and outside the van and bloody gloves nearby.

Soon other police officers arrived and noticed blood on Doll's face and noticed he left bloody footprints in the snow. Around this time Doll asked to speak to his divorce attorney. He was then questioned about whether the blood was from a deer or a human, Doll declined to explain the source of the blood or to take the officers to an alleged butchered deer.

Judge J. Gaffeo wrote: "These unusual circumstances caused the deputies to believe that a person may have been injured in an accident or assault so they continued to question (the) defendant despite his request for legal assistance."

Doll repeatedly told officers he couldn't answer their questions and police tried contacting his family and acquaintances to determine whether anyone needed emergency aid. Officers also searched the area for an injured person. Eventually, they went to the defendant's business partner's house and discovered Benaquist bludgeoned to death in his driveway. In the meantime, police impounded Doll's van and took him to the Sheriff's Office, where he was photographed, DNA tested, and his clothes seized.

Hours later, a friend and former coworker asked to speak with Doll. An investigator, who was aware of the business partner's demise, initially rebuffed the visitor. Then the investigator relented and said he would be staying in the room and taking notes.

Doll told the woman that the case didn't involve an animal; he had been present but didn't do anything; the case was "open and shut"; he would be going to jail and probably get what he deserved.

The investigation, indictment for second-degree murder and prosecution followed.

Doll's attorney, Paul Cambria, moved to suppress statements made to police and to his female friend, as well as all the physical evidence, primarily claiming his client had been arrested without probable cause, interrogated in violation of his right to counsel and without receiving his Miranda warnings.

Genesee County Court conducted an evidentiary hearing and ruled the detention and questioning of the defendant were justified under the emergency doctrine. However, County Court did suppress the defendant's DNA test results because the police could've obtained a warrant.

A jury subsequently convicted Doll of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to a prison term of 15 years to life. That conviction was appealed and in 2012 the Appellate Division majority determined the police actions were reasonable in this emergency situation. Two justices dissented, saying the emergency doctrine was not applicable since the police didn't know whether an actual crime victim existed.

The dissension allowed Doll's attorney to then appeal to the New York Court of Appeals. The justices agreed that police properly relied on the emergency doctrine in light of the "peculiar circumstances" they were confronted with because "...the emergency doctrine is premised on reasonableness, not certitude."

As to the defense seeking to suppress statements Doll made to his friend at the Sheriff's Office, saying it amounted to the police using the woman to conduct the functional equivalent of a custodial interrogation, the Court of Appeals disagreed. Its ruling states the purpose of the Miranda rule is to prevent government officials from "using the coercive nature of confinement to extract confessions that would not be given in an unrestrained environment." As a matter of law, Doll's conversation with his friend did not constitute an interrogation.

Finally, as to Doll's challenge of the legality of his detention by police, the panel ruled it had no merit.

State's highest court reviewing murder conviction of Scott Doll

By Howard B. Owens

The murder conviction of Scott Doll, and whether he should have been read his Miranda warnings prior to questioning, will be reviewed by New York's highest court, according to an AP story on the Wall Street Journal's Web site.

The Court of Appeals heard arguments on Tuesday and could issue a ruling within a month.

Doll was convicted in a jury trial May 20, 2010 of murdering Joseph Benaquist, a friend, fellow former corrections officer, and a business partner.

On a cold winter night, Feb. 16, 2009, Doll was spotted by Deputy James Diehl, walking on Lake Road, Pembroke, wearing blood-soaked coveralls and carrying a tire iron.

Initially, Doll reportedly said the blood came from a butchered deer. Investigators were skeptical and questioned him for several hours.

At trial, defense attorney Paul Cambria tried to get Doll's statements thrown out because Doll had not been read his rights. The prosecution countered -- and Judge Robert C. Noonan upheld -- that under rules known as the "emergency doctrine," law enforcement can question a person without reading that person his rights.

The fear, according to the prosecution, was that a person was badly injured and in need of immediate medical attention.

The defense has maintained that without any actual evidence that a person was in fact hurt the emergency doctrine does not apply.

Some of the statements used against Doll where made to a friend who came to the Sheriff's Office on Park Road to talk with him while he was being held there. An investigator was in the room, taking notes during the conversation.

Even if the court rules in favor of Doll, the court would not necessarily order a new trial, but that could be a possible outcome if jurists find that Doll should have been read his rights prior to questioning, or at some point earlier in the investigation.

At trial, evidence against Doll included his blood-splattered overalls, titles and receipts for cars he and Benaquist bought and sold, and his proximity to the murder scene. At the start of the trial, Cambria raised the possibility that one of Doll's sons did the deed, but Doll's son had an alibis for the time of the murder. The prosecution's case largely rested on "if not Scott Doll, then who?"

Doll was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. 

He subsequently beat a jail contraband charge in a trial in City Court over some white powder found in a balloon on his body after his conviction. The powder turned out to be aspirin.

At the time of his arrest in 2009, he was already an announced candidate for mayor in the Village of Corfu. He lost the election to incumbent Todd Skeet.

For our prior Scott Doll coverage, click here.

Defense plans to appeal ruling upholding murder conviction of Scott Doll

By Howard B. Owens

With two dissents in a NYS Supreme Court ruling upholding the murder conviction of Scott F. Doll, one of Doll's attorneys said in the wake of the ruling that the defense will request that the NYS Court of Appeals review the case.

Timothy P. Murphy, of the Buffalo firm Lipstiz, Scime, Cambria, said the ruling expands the so-called "emergency doctrine" beyond what previous courts ruled.

"We're obviously disappointed with the results," Murphy said. "But there were two dissenting votes, so we will be an appeal with the Court of Appeals in Albany."

On a 3-2 vote, the justices found that statements made by Doll to the deputies and investigators he spoke to Feb. 16, 2009 were admissible as evidence against Doll.

The statements in question were made before the body of Joseph Benaquist, 66, was found bludgeoned on the driveway of his Pembroke home.

The court also ruled that statements Doll made to a friend in the presence of an investigator were also admissible.

The two dissenting justices disagreed with the majority on the use of the "emergency doctrine" regarding statements made before the murder was discovered, but agreed that the Doll's statements to a friend back at the Sheriff's Office were admissible.

The emergency doctrine allows police officers to detain and question a person when they believe the life of a person or persons may be in jeopardy. In an emergency situation, where lives may be at stake, police are not required to read a person his rights.

The majority's opinion upheld every aspect of the prosecution's case that was appealed, including the investigative work of the Sheriff's Office.

"We think (Doll) was properly convicted and the proof was there," Sheriff Gary Maha said. "They (deputies and investigators) did a great job. They were very thorough. It was a job well done by our people to make sure they covered all the bases."

Maha said he never had a doubt that his staff handled the case appropriately and that the court would back up his department.

"They're well trained," Maha said. They know that their jobs for those type of situations. They were following the law. I know the defense wants to put doubt in the jurors' minds. That’s their job, but our officers did their job and followed the law correctly."

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said he was also pleased, but not surprised by the ruling.

"We were expecting this result based on the attitude expressed by the judges at the appellant division when the case was argued," Friedman said.

While Friedman praised the work of the entire Sheriff's Office staff on the case, he singled out Deputy James Diehl for exceptional work.

Diehl had only recently started working for the Sheriff's Office in February 2009 when he was dispatched to investigate a suspicious individual ducking behind cars at an old gas station at Main Road and Lake Road in Pembroke.

After arriving on scene, he encountered Doll, who immediately dropped what later turned out to be a car jack and he had a lug wrench in a pocket.

As Diehl interviewed Doll, he notice Doll had fresh blood on his jumpsuit, his hands and his face.

When questioned, Doll said he was butchering deer. 

Diehl was immediately suspicious of Doll's story and when a witness approached and identified Doll as the suspicious subject seen at the gas station, Diehl cuffed Doll and told him he was being detained until things could be sorted out.

"From the start, Deputy James Diehl did an excellent job of perceiving a suspicious situation and following up on it," Friedman said. "From our perspective, he did everything right. If he didn't follow through on it, we might never had made our case."

It was Diehl's actions, along with Deputy Patrick Reeves, who was second on scene, that came under scrutiny in the appeal by the defense team, however.

The defense contends that Doll should have been given a Miranda warning ("You have the right to remain silent, etc.") and when he asked for an attorney, all questioning of Doll should have stopped until an attorney was present.

Friedman argued that the preponderance of evidence available to deputies was that a person or persons had been seriously hurt. The amount of blood on Doll, and his inconsistent story about butchering deer and then going to see a friend and being involved in a car transaction, gave the deputies reason to believe a person or persons may be in serious trouble and that Doll had been in close proximity to whatever it was that caused a person or persons to bleed profusely.

The majority of the Fourth Judicial Department judges agreed with Friedman.

"... the deputies did not violate the defendant's right to counsel or his Miranda rights under the unique circumstances of the case," wrote the majority in their opinion. "The amount of blood present on the defendant's face, hands, clothing and van, and on the ground, along with bloody gloves on top of a nearby car, indicated that one or more persons had been grievously injured and that the defendant had been in close contact with the person or persons."

The court also found that given Doll's inconsistent statements to deputies, "they were justified in concluding that one or more persons had been injured and were in need of assistance or rescue."

The dissenting judges argued that the deputies did not have enough information to conclude there was a human victim and found that Doll's statement that he had been butchering deer was plausible.

Defense attorney Murphy said that in his initial ruling at trial in May 2010, Judge Robert C. Noonan expanded the scope of the emergency doctrine and though the Fourth Department upheld Noonan, Murphy believes the proper scope of the emergency doctrine can be reestablished in the Court of Appeals.

Both majority and dissent judges agreed that a friend who visited with Doll in the presence of Investigator Kris Kautz was not working in collusion with police and therefore Doll's statements could be used against him at trial.

The court also rejected a defense argument that Doll's van was seized without a probable cause and that the prosecution properly obtained business records of Doll's.

Doll is currently serving 15 years to life for the murder of Benaquist at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg.

For all of our previous coverage of the Scott Doll case, click here.

BREAKING: Scott Doll's murder conviction upheld by NYS Supreme Court

By Howard B. Owens

By a vote of 3-2, the NYS Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of Scott F. Doll, convicted May 20, 2010 of killing Joseph Benaquist, 66, on Feb. 16, 2009.

The majority found that Doll's Constitutional rights were not compromised by Sheriff's deputies and investigators who responded to Lake Road, Pembroke, after Doll was found wandering the area in a blood-splattered jumpsuit.

UPDATE: Full Story

Juror in Doll's aspirin trial says proof just wasn't there to support conviction

By Howard B. Owens

At least one of the six jurors who found Scott Doll not guilty of promoting prison contraband earlier this week is pretty certain Doll did, in fact, transport a balloon of crushed aspirin into the Genesee County Jail.

The proof, however, just wasn't there, she said.

Doll was accused of bringing the aspirin into the jail in violation of law following his conviction of murder for killing Pembroke resident Joseph Benaquist. 

Corrections officers testified to finding Doll in a holding cell on May 20 covered in white powder, with white powder on a sink, the floor and the bed, along with a green balloon sitting on the bed.

The juror -- whom we agreed to identify only as Juror #2 -- called The Batavian today because she was bothered by a statement from Sheriff Gary Maha about the verdict.

"Who knows, maybe they felt sorry for him because he's been convicted of murder and they thought, 'what's this silly little charge?'" Maha told The Batavian.

Nothing could be further from the truth, said Juror #2.

While the juror said she agrees with Maha that it makes no sense to believe anybody with the jail staff gave Doll the aspirin, she just didn't feel the case was made that Doll had the aspirin on his body when he entered the jail.

How it got there, she doesn't know, and Doll is the most likely culprit, but she just couldn't vote to convict him on the available evidence.

"We’re not saying there isn’t anybody who didn’t do their job," the juror said. "We’re not saying that at all. There was just no proof that he brought it in."

She said she was bothered by the fact that the prosecution did not offer the balloon into evidence, that there was no DNA evidence that might show Doll "stuck the balloon up his bum" or no photos were shown to put in perspective how much white powder was found in the jail cell.

The description of the amount of white powder found in the cell, Juror #2 said, left the impression that the amount of aspirin must have made the balloon "the size of a baseball."

She just didn't see how Doll could have hidden a balloon that size on his body and have it go undiscovered through three pat down searches.

The first vote, by secret written ballot, was 5-1 for acquittal. The one juror who favored guilty then asked the other jurors to explain their reasoning. After a short discussion, another vote was taken and "not guilty" was the unanimous decision.

Juror #2 said as far as she's concerned, it never crossed anybody's mine to let Doll off out of some sort of sympathy or that the case seemed too trival to bother with compared to his murder conviction.

"We took the case very serious," she said.

She also admitted that when she was first seated on the jury, she was sure Doll was guilty.

"You just don’t know," she said. "Things totally change when you are sitting in the jury box and you’re listening to all the evidence and you’re listen to all that testimony and you’re like, ‘wait a minute, I didn’t think of that.’"

Sheriff surprised by Doll verdict, doesn't believe his staff acted improperly

By Howard B. Owens

While the acquittal of Scott Doll on a promoting prison contraband charge is surprising, said Sheriff Gary Maha, he remains confident that it was Doll who brought a balloon filled with aspirin into the Genesee County Jail on May 20.

"You never know what goes on in a jury's mind," said Maha. "Who knows, maybe they felt sorry for him because he's been convicted of murder and they thought, 'what's this silly little charge?'"

The implication of the defense was that a member of the Sheriff's staff provided Doll with the powdered aspirin. It's a notion that Maha rejects, saying that all of the officers who came into contact with Doll the day he was convicted of killing Joseph Benaquist are professionals who know the regulations.

"We might have to look at the particulars and do some review," Maha said. "We might need to remind our guys to do a more thorough search of incoming inmates."

The initial report released by the Sheriff's Office said that Doll had the green balloon of white powder concealed on his body. But the only evidence introduced at trial was that the first time anybody saw a balloon was when it was sitting on a holding cell bed and Doll was already covered in white powder with more on the floor and the sink.

Maha said he was told from the beginning that the balloon was found on Scott Doll. He said he would ask his investigators about the discrepancy.

He doesn't believe, however, that any policies or procedures need to be changed. The fact that Doll wasn't convicted is more a matter, he indicted, that defense attorney Dan Killelea did a good job of creating reasonable doubt.

Maha agreed with Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl's closing argument that if any department official was going to give Doll aspirin, why crush it up first? Why not just hand him a bunch of tablets?

"There's no possible way one of our guys gave it to him," Maha said. "That's totally ridiculous. I think he (Killelea) probably wanted to create doubt.

"As far as I know," Maha added, "we did everything right. It should have been a slam-dunk."

Inset photo: File photo of Sheriff Gary Maha.

Jury finds Scott Doll not guilty of promoting prison contraband

By Howard B. Owens

A jury of six Batavia residents took only about five minutes to reach a not guilty verdict in the promoting prison contraband trial of Scott F. Doll.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl had little to say after the trial.

"I guess I don’t have a reaction," Zickl said. "This is divided up. Everybody has different jobs to do. They have their job, I have mine. Everybody does their job and this is where we wind up."

Doll's attorney, Dan Killelea, said Scott insisted from the beginning that he was not guilty.

"I think his faith in the jury system was very shaken by his conviction in the murder trial," said Killelea, who helped defend Doll in May against charges that he killed retired corrections officer Joseph Benaquist.

"I’m hoping, I’m really hoping, this restores some of his faith in the system, because it’s a system I believe in. I think it’s the best system we have, though it’s not perfect."

He also praised Zickl for putting on a thorough case and presenting a strong closing argument.

"Bob Zickl did, I believe, a tremendous job," Killelea said. "I thought his closing argument was outstanding. He had me worried. He gave the jurors a lot to work with if they were going to go that way. I hope I was able to point out some holes in the case and I’m hoping that’s what they hung their hat on."

As for the implication that a specific corrections officer supplied the aspirin to Doll, Killelea said it wasn't his intention to draw a bead on a specific individual.

"I think in light of the circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s case, I don’t think the facts led to only one conclusion -- that he was guilty -- and I’m hopeful the jury agreed with me and found reasonable doubt in other legitimate conclusions that could have been reached," Killelea said.

Doll, dressed in a prison-supplied pair of tan slacks and white shirt, showed no apparent reaction to the verdict.

Today's coverage:

Doll's attorney suggests corrections officer at jail was source of aspirin

By Howard B. Owens

In closing arguments in the Scott Doll prison contraband case, the key question attorneys for both sides wrangled over is who brought powdered aspirin into the Genesee County Jail.

Defense Attorney Dan Killelea made the suggestion that the aspirin was given to Doll by a corrections officer at the jail.

Repeating a phrase Doll reportedly used when speaking "officer to officer" with Corrections Officer Vincent Maurer about his state of mind after trying to ingest the aspirin, Doll reportedly said to Maurer, "an officer gave it to me."

After the aspirin was discovered by Maurer, Killelea suggested, jail officials had no choice but to prosecute him for promoting prison contraband.

"Who’s going to step up (and say) they just gave aspirin to a guy just was convicted of murder?" Killelea said. "Who is going to fess up to showing some humanity, some professional courtesy?"

Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl said that suggestion made no sense and wasn't supported by the evidence.

This is not "Law and Order Batavia," Zickl said, adding that conspiracy theories belong on TV, where they’re entertaining, but they’re not reality. Zickl said this case is reality.

"If you are a senior corrections officer are you going to risk your career by giving the defendant aspirin ground up in a balloon?" Zickl said. "If you did that, why would you say you've got to go upstairs to check on something and let somebody else watch the defendant? Why wouldn’t you stay there and watch him ingest it?"

Zickl argued that if a corrections officer wanted to give Doll aspirin, why grind it up, why not just give him a few tablets?

The evidence -- the balloon, the white powder all over the jail cell and on Doll's face -- is more consistent with the behavior of an intoxicated, despondent person who carried the alleged contraband into the jail himself.

Killelea questioned why the balloon wasn't introduced as evidence, why it wasn't tested for fingerprints or DNA. He argued that to produce the amount of white powder observed by officers, a pretty large balloon would be needed, and a balloon that size would be difficult to hide through three pat down searches.

There is no evidence, Zickl argued, that the balloon was giant. He said 20 ground-up pills could produce a good deal of powder and easily be concealed by an experienced former corrections officer who would know how to hide something not easily found in a standard pat down search.

After arguments, with the jury out of the courtroom, Killelea objected to Zickl's closing argument, saying that Zickl repeatedly made reference to the aspirin being in the balloon at one time. He said no evidence was introduced to prove the balloon ever contained aspirin, or that there even was a balloon.

Judge Robert Balbick is just completing instructions to the jurors, who will begin deliberations shortly.

No proof Doll brought contraband into jail, defense contends

By Howard B. Owens

There's no proof that Scott Doll carried a green balloon into the Genesee County Jail on May 20.

That's the assertion made by defense attorney Dan Killelea in an opening statement this morning in Doll's trial for allegedly introducing contraband into jail following his murder conviction.

Doll was allegedly found in a holding cell about to drink from a cup with a mixture of water and a white powdery substance.

Sgt. Greg Walker transported Doll from the courthouse, and then came back to the jail to investigate the alleged incident in the holding cell. He testified that when he looked into the holding cell, there was a white powdery substance trailing from the sink, to the floor and onto the bed.

The green balloon was laying empty on the bed.

It turned out that the white powder was aspirin.

Walker testified that he did a brief pat down search of Doll in the holding cell at the Genesee County Courthouse and found only a couple of coins in Doll's pocket, which he allowed him to keep.

The sargeant testified that Deputy Vincent Maurer also conducted a search of Doll upon his arrival at the jail.

At that time, Maurer felt something unusual along Doll's pant leg and took Doll into a holding cell for a more thorough search. Nothing was found.

Walker also testified that he arrived at the courthouse as the same time Doll was dropped off at the front door and held the door for him to enter the building.

Doll appeared intoxicated, Walker said. He could smell alcohol on his breath and he was staggering and swaying a bit.

UPDATE 12:16 p.m.: Maurer testifies that Doll told him an "officer" gave him the white powder and he didn't know what it was.

"I told him it was my birthday and I didn’t want to see him hurt himself on my birthday and have that be my memory," Maurer said. "He said it was nothing against me. I'm trying to take the edge off -- some officer gave it to me."

Maurer added that Doll said, "You don’t know what I’m going through. I’ve lost my family. I’ve lost 25 years of my career. I’ve lost everything. Officer to officer."

When Doll arrived, prior to the alleged white powder incident, Maurer observed that Doll appeared despondent and intoxicated. He recommended Doll be placed under constant supervision, but that constant supervision -- which involves an officer sitting outside his cell and logging everything he does -- would not begin until after he was fully processed.

Maurer said a document that says he should be on constant watch while in the holding cell is a typo, that he should have gone on constant watch after processing was completed.

Maurer also testified that nobody was in the holding cell prior to Doll entering and that he didn't see a balloon or white powder in the room.

As for the pat search when Doll first arrived, Maurer said when patting his pant leg, "I felt something funny" and asked him to go into a holding cell for a more thorough search. Doll was asked to drop his pants and nothing unusual was found. At that point, he said he thought that maybe he only felt the seam of Doll's pants previously.

UPDATE 12:52 p.m.: Batavia City Court Judge Robert Balbick rules that Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl could have asked his question during his initial direct examination, after Wolf had been qualified as an expert witness. Since that didn't happen, Killelea's objection is sustained.

UPDATE 12:56 p.m.: Lunch break. Prosecution will rest after lunch. The defense will not call any witnesses.

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