Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Zarinsky

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

Zarinsky had interviewed attorneys for close to four months before Benedict decided to take the case.

"It was going to be a notorious case and my client was not liked by anyone who knew anything about the case or him," said Benedict, in an interview with Court TV's Crime Library. "I had some personal reservations in representing him. I represent a lot of police officers. They're a big part of my practice. Some of them have become friends over the years. And I asked them..., 'Do you have a problem with me taking this case?' And none of them did. That was my only issue with the case. That my friends or clients might be bothered. But this is what I do...so..."

There was also the issue of money.

Benedict insisted that he get "paid up front..." and Zarinsky sold the family home to help pay legal fees.

During four days of pre-trial hearings, Benedict again argued that the passage of time was harmful to Zarinsky's case, making it nearly impossible for him to mount a fair defense.

Key investigators had died.

Evidence had been lost or destroyed.

Assistant County Prosecutor William Kolano sought to use photographs of Schiffer's fingerprint left on a can of anti-freeze, plus another shot of a screwdriver used to pry open the dealership's backdoor.

The actual can of antifreeze and screwdriver had disappeared.

Barisonek ruled in favor of the prosecution, but Benedict was undeterred. He asked that allegations by Schiffer and Judith Sapsa against Zarinsky be severely limited due to there prejudicial nature.

Kolano argued that the allegations were necessary to understand why Schiffer and Judith Sapsa had waited more than 40 years to come forward with the truth.

This time it was Benedict who got the nod from Barisonek.

They decided that the following would not be heard:

Zarinsky's past convictions for burglary.

His threats on Schiffer's life.

The sexual assaults against Judith Sapsa.

Only the physical assaults on Judith Sapsa would be considered admissible.

According to the Star-Ledger, "Barisonek also refused to allow a jury to hear testimony from FBI Special Agent Daniel Garrabrant, who interviewed Zarinsky on August 19, 1999, five days after his cousin was charged in Bernoskie's murder. Garrabrant said Zarinsky claimed to have knowledge about unsolved murders committed 'by and with other individuals' but refused to disclose any information unless he was placed in a witness protection program and relocated to a military base or government reservation." (Mary Ann Spoto)

Jakubiec, who interviewed Zarinsky at length several times, recalled the discussions: "We talked to him at length several times. He (Zarinsky) was going to give me the body of Rosemary (Calandriello) in exchange for a deal. He wanted to go to a federal prison, because as he stated, he was getting old, he couldn't defend himself in jail anymore. He didn't want to stay in a big prison. He wanted to go somewhere he could plant a garden. That's what we were working on when he told me that he had killed approximately 10 people. What I told him was..., 'Show me some good faith. You've killed these people, but the first thing I want is Rosemary's body. This way I'll know you're being truthful...,'" Jakubiec said. "He never did."

Barisonek was presented with a pool of close to 200 potential jurors, more than four times the normal amount for a criminal trial.

"The day we were picking a jury I saw a lead article in one of the papers. My reaction was there's no hope in winning this case, because if any juror or any family member of a juror saw that article and talked about it there was no way they wouldn't find him (Zarinsky) guilty. It listed all the things he had been charged with and was alleged to have done. In one of his trials from the 70s his lawyer asked him to write them down so that he could be prepared for it if they were to come up. Zarinsky did that and kept a carbon copy and when his house was searched they found the copy and it was 25 pages long."

Barisonek took a single day to select the 12-member jury, plus four alternates.

The case was ready for trial.

 

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