Double murder conviction thrown out

October 03, 2017 06:14 PM

TROY - Richard Wright looked like the teenage kid next door when he was convicted of double murder in 1988. Three decades later, time in a prison cell has changed his appearance, and now a state supreme court justice has changed his status. He's no longer a convicted arsonist or killer.

"He's definitely served a long period of time thus far," Patrick Pipino, the brother of murder victim Meredith Pepino, pointed out, "Unfortunately my sister's going to serve a longer time."

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Patrick Pipino was away at college when he heard about his sister's death. He remains convinced to this day that the jury convicted the right person, and he's not happy about the possibility of a retrial.

"The key thing that I worry about on this is my mother," Pipino states, "I watched her struggle with this every day now for 30 years and now it's like ripping a scab off an old wound."

"This is a claim by an innocent man whose saying he was wrongfully convicted on bad evidence 30 years ago," says Albany attorney Mike McDermott, who is representing Wright in his appeal case.

McDermott says all around the country courts are realizing that fire investigative science back in the 1980s was not only wrong, it often led to unjustified conclusions. McDermott also insists that he is not taking advantage of any loop holes in the law.

"Our position is that you can't have a prosecution for an arson and a homicide unless you have proof of an arson," McDermott says. "What we are currently saying is that there was nothing about that fire, no evidence at all about that fire which suggests it was an arson."

Wright was charged with arson and murder for killing Meredith Pipino, 13, and Tara Gilbert, 14, in a house fire at 17 108th Street in Lansingburgh. Meredith was sleeping over at her friend's house Labor Day Weekend 1986.

"The worst part was, they found my sister's body going back into the house," Pipino says, "so obviously she had gotten out and went back for her friend."

In addition to the fire science evidence, a man by the name of Danny Williams testified that Wright told him he set the fire. Both men had been implicated in a spree of burglaries, and after testifying against Wright, Williams' charges were reduced to trespassing.

"He had spit in his eye in defiance and my eyes showed absolutely no remorse," Pipino said. "That was the turning point for me in terms of thinking that the verdict was fair."

Richard Wright, 49, was in the Rensselaer County Jail Tuesday night. Even though he's already served nearly 30 years of a 25-to-life sentence, Rensselaer County District Attorney needs to decide if he wants to retry the case.

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 12th.



Dan Levy

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