NH high court rejects rapist’s amnesia claims

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the rape conviction of a convicted sex offender who claimed amnesia about the crime made him incompetent to stand trial.

William Decato, of Manchester, will continue serving a life sentence for breaking into a Manchester woman’s home and repeatedly assaulting her over a two-hour period in August 2009.

The 57-year-old claimed his lack of memory of the assaults, due to heavy alcohol consumption, left him unable to assist in his own defense.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, said the evidence against Decato was strong enough to overwhelm any chance that Decato’s memory could have helped his defense.

During the attack, the victim grabbed a knife and stabbed her attacker in the neck. DNA tests linked blood at the scene to Decato, who was arrested hours after the attack.

Dr. Daniel Comiskey, chief forensic examiner for the state Department of Corrections, testified before trial that Decato told him he’d consumed 11 beers and had no memory of the attack. Comiskey concluded he was competent to stand trial because he understood the proceedings and was capable of communicating with his lawyer.

The Supreme Court, citing a ruling on competency it issued five years ago, said, “There are many ways a defendant can consult with and assist his trial counsel with a reasonable degree of rational understanding without necessarily remembering the details or circumstances of an event that led to his arrest.”

Decato’s lawyer declined to comment on the ruling.

Decato claimed on appeal that his amnesia prevented him from challenging the victim’s version of events. But the court ruled the physical evidence from the crime scene — including the blood and eyeglasses and a baseball cap Decato left behind — were so overwhelming as to bar any “tenable defense” he could have presented.

A jury in 2011 found him guilty of nine counts of aggravated felony sex assault and numerous other felonies. Decato received a mandatory life sentence because he was convicted of raping an exotic dancer more than a decade ago and has prior convictions for rape and attempted rape.

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