The Fatal Attraction Murder Case
Preparation for the trial took months. Prosecutors, led by Assistant District Attorney James A. McCarty, 38, spent a great deal of time going over evidence, re-interviewing witnesses and planning case strategy. McCarty was already a trial veteran by the time the Warmus case was handed to him. By 1991, he already tried seven murder cases and won convictions in six. He was considered a fine prosecutor and enjoyed the respect of his peers, the police and many defense attorneys as well. But he was well aware of the avalanche of publicity already generated by the salacious aspects of the case.
"The Fatal Attraction" murder case was on the front pages of the nation's press for months and though coverage had subsided, it was sure to flame up once again as soon as the trial got underway. And the spectacle of Carolyn Warmus on the witness stand had the media salivating with anticipation. They couldn't wait for the sexy, female killer, heiress to a fortune, to take the stand and proclaim her innocence while her lover-victim-stooge sat in the courtroom, movie contract firmly in his pocket and a look of complete bewilderment on his face. Reporters lived for a story like this.
For the defense, Warmus hired David Lewis, 35, a nationally known attorney who once represented Panamanian President Manuel Noriega. He was well regarded and had the tenacity and skill of an expert trial attorney. Once the president of the influential New York Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Lewis was a formidable opponent who hated to lose and in a case of this magnitude, he would be at his best. Accustomed to high-profile cases, Lewis was not intimidated by all the attention. "I love trying cases and this one offers a tremendous opportunity for me to exercise my skills," he told the press.
On the bench was the enigmatic, unpredictable, Judge John D. Carey, 66. Carey's erratic behavior on the bench was well known and his antics were part of Westchester courtroom legend. He was also known as a defender of civil rights and would not tolerate any sort of prosecutorial error. A graduate of Harvard Law School and former mayor of the city of Rye, Carey had a long career in law that included service for the United Nations on the Subcommittee on Human Rights. Often cantankerous and stubborn, he was considered a difficult judge by many of the attorneys who appeared in his court. He was not well liked by law enforcement either. "He gave Lewis carte blanche in the courtroom. I think he was enamored with Lewis' reputation. He let Lewis do anything he wanted basically. He reminded me of Judge Ito," Constantino said.
The trial opened on January 14, 1991, in a tenth-floor courtroom in White Plains, N.Y., amid a flurry of media attention. Carolyn strolled into court wearing a tight, sexy outfit that had her attorney cringing and reporters struggling to get a photo. She sat at the defense table in the middle of two bodyguards and rarely turned her head to look at any of the spectators in the packed courtroom.
"Are we ready to begin?" asked Judge Carey. After the preliminaries were completed, A.D.A. McCarty rose and gave his opening statement. In a calm and clear voice, McCarty outlined the case and evidence against the defendant. He said the prosecution would bring "to this courtroom witnesses who will testify and introduce items of evidence that will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Carolyn Warmus is responsible for the death of Betty Jeanne Solomon." He went through Paul Solomon's relationship with Warmus, the Vincent Parco connection, the .25-caliber Beretta equipped with a silencer, and the purchase of the ammunition from Ray's Sport Shop and the obsessive, clinging nature of Carolyn's romantic relationships. He asked the jury to listen to the evidence, analyze it, use common sense and "if you do that I'm confident that you will find that the truth fits that on January 15, 1989, Carolyn Warmus killed Betty Jeanne Solomon."
David Lewis rose from the defense table and walked to the front of the jury box. A bear of a man with a full beard and a steady convincing demeanor, Lewis was comfortable in the spotlight and never wavered in his statements. He cast suspicion on Paul Solomon and said that "this is a man who lied to his wife...lied to her face and he lied for his own purposes so he could be out with Carolyn and maybe others before Carolyn." Lewis attacked the credibility of Vincent Parco whose testimony he knew would be devastating to his client. "Vincent Parco is the master in setting people up to take a fall for acts that he committed, that he won't own up to...You'll also learn that he's capable of saying anything!" He appealed to the jury's sense of fairness and the prosecution's lack of evidence. As Lewis moved from the podium, his voice rose in closing, "I will return to you and ask you for a verdict of not guilty and I will tell you then, as I tell you now, that we believe justice demands it and the law requires it!"
And so after almost two years to the very day that Betty Jeanne Solomon was shot in cold blood in the comfort of her own home, the trial of her alleged killer began.