Judge Sets Aside Decision In Fentress Case

Following a motion by the Attorney General’s Office, a State Supreme Court Judge has set aside a jury’s decision in the Albert Fentress case, meaning that Fentress will remain institutionalized.

"Our belief all along has been that Fentress belongs not on the streets, but in an institution- he still poses a very serious threat to public," said Attorney General Spitzer. "Given the unspeakable crime which he committed, and his mental condition, we feel Fentress remains a danger and therefore should not be released."

"We argued our position vigorously in court and when a jury decided otherwise, we presented compelling arguments to the judge in asking him to set aside the verdict. This is an important decision in protecting the safety of the people of Suffolk County."

In April, following a trial, a jury found that Fentress could be released from an institution even though the jury also ruled that Fentress was mentally ill. The Attorney General’s office asked the judge to set aside the verdict, saying that it was contrary to the facts which had been presented at trial.

Judge Harry Seidell has ruled that "To believe that the Petitioner (Fentress) was mentally ill but did not need inpatient care and treatment the jury would have to believe that outside the hospital setting Petitioner would somehow, on his own, develop self control and not pose a danger to others.

"There is no evidence to support a belief that Petitioner could be harmless in a less restrictive setting."

In 1979 Fentress lured a high school student into his basement where he shot and sexually mutilated the boy before killing him and then cannibalizing the body.

Fentress will now continue to receive the psychiatric care and treatment that he clearly needs," said Spitzer. "We will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the safety of the public in this case. In addition, I continue to urge the State Legislature to enact reforms in the ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ statute."

The head of Spitzer’s Suffolk Regional Office, Denis McElligott and Assistant A.G. Laurie Gatto argued the case in court. The A.G.’s office worked with the Dutchess County District Attorney’s Office on the case.