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John Palladino

Other Connecticut Exonerations
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In January 1998, officials at the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut questioned a female prisoner after hearing that she was pregnant. The woman, who was awaiting trial for murder, denied she had any sexual relationship in the prison and a pregnancy test was negative.
 
The woman, identified as Lillian R., told prison authorities that another inmate, Luz Torres, with whom she had been romantically and sexually involved was spreading false rumors because Lillian had broken off their relationship.

Lillian, who had been assigned to work in a stockroom in the prison kitchen, was then transferred to solitary confinement. After several weeks, during which she was strip-searched, permitted no toiletry items, forced to wear hospital-style scrubs, Lillian was questioned repeatedly by a prison captain who accused her of lying.
 
In March 1998, Lillian signed a statement saying that she had engaged in sexual intercourse on five occasions in November and December 1997 with 41-year-old John Palladino, the supervisor of the prison’s food services division.
 
In September 1998, Palladino, who denied the allegations, was arrested and charged with second-degree criminal sexual assault.

Prior to trial, Palladino’s defense lawyer subpoenaed the complainant’s mental health file and prison records. The prosecution filed a motion to block the subpoena, maintaining that such records were confidential and that Lillian would waive confidentiality, but only to allow the judge to review the records to determine if there was anything of value to the defense.

The defense lawyer argued that if Lillian were willing to make a full waiver, the records would not have to be reviewed by the judge but could be turned over directly to the defense.

The trial judge appointed a lawyer to represent Lillian and after a discussion, the lawyer reported that she had agreed to waive confidentiality as to all of her medical and psychiatric records. Lillian’s lawyer filed a written waiver that she had signed.

Nonetheless, the judge ordered the records turned over to him and after his review, he gave the defense 16 pages but declined to turn over another 37 pages.

Palladino went to trial in New London County Superior Court in April 2000. Lillian, who by that time had been convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison, testified to the sexual assaults. On cross-examination, she admitted to a past medical diagnosis of multiple personality disorder, but claimed it was a “misdiagnosis” because the effects of illegal drug abuse combined with the prospect of a lengthy prison term had left her “completely a mess.”

Asked whether she was schizophrenic, Lillian admitted to “hearing voices,” but attributed the phenomenon to drug use, even while in prison.

On April 19, 2000, the jury convicted Palladino of second-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but was allowed to remain free on bond pending appeal.

On May 14, 2002, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that the trial judge should not have reviewed the records once the complainant had signed an unconditional waiver.

“Where the state’s complaining witness has freely agreed to the use of her psychiatric records and the court has provided her with counsel who advised her in the matter, we conclude that there is no further initial gatekeeping role for the court,” the court ruled. “The court improperly refused to release all of the psychiatric records to the defendant, which he had subpoenaed to court.”

The court held that while the defense was able to “foray into the issue of mental incapacity due to diagnoses of schizophrenia, ‘blackouts’ and ‘multiple personality disorder,’ the 37 pages of withheld records would have impeached the Lillian's “superficial explanations.”

The records indicated that Lillian was diagnosed as a “chronic” schizophrenic. Other records included a recommendation that she be examined for “dissociative disorder,” a breakdown of the functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception of the environment, the court said. Several reports—one dated the month before the trial began—listed her memory as “impaired.”

“Thus, the defendant’s actual cross-examination was greatly limited in comparison to the cross-examination that would have been possible with the withheld impeachment material,” the court ruled.

The case was sent back to Superior Court for a new trial, but the prosecution dismissed the case.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/6/2016
State:Connecticut
County:New London
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Convicted:2000
Exonerated:2002
Sentence:3 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:41
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No