HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A York County man convicted of killing his wife will get a new trial. That’s after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled one of the biggest pieces of evidence used at trial as inadmissible.
Joseph Fitzpatrick III was convicted of first-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to life in prison, but the high court says the jury was prejudiced because of a note his wife Annmarie left, so now, he’ll get another day in court.
Investigators say Joseph Fitzpatrick drowned his wife Annmarie in a Chanceford Township creek in 2012 and then staged an ATV accident to cover it up.
Her death was initially ruled accidental until prosecutors said her co-workers discovered a handwritten note in her daily planner that read, “If something happens to me—JOE.”
It was that key piece of evidence that helped secure a conviction, but Friday, the Pennsyvlania Supreme Court justices voted five to two that the note was inadmissible hearsay.
In the 47 page opinion, Justice David Wecht mentions other proof of motive, including Fitzpatrick’s extramarital affair and the one-point-seven million dollar life insurance policy he had on Annmarie.
The day she died, there was also an email Annemarie sent from her work to her personal account with the same message, “If something happens to me…Joe and I are having marital problems. Last night we almost had an accident where a huge log fell on me.”
However, Wecht writes quote “We cannot say that the motive evidence, even in conjunction with Corporal Thierwechter’s testimony, was so overwhelming that we are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury would have convicted Fitzpatrick without the note.”
He goes on to say “The remaining evidence simply was not so overwhelming so as to overcome the note’s enormous impact. Accordingly, the admission of the note cannot be deemed harmless.”
In a statement, the York County District Attorney’s office said “We have received the Supreme Court’s opinion, and are currently breaking it down. We look forward to retrying Joseph Fitzpatrick.”
abc27 reached out to Fitzpatrick’s attorney for comment but haven’t heard back.