- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

YORK, Pa. (AP) - A judge has acquitted a man earlier convicted by a jury of murder in the death of his wife three years ago.

York County Judge Richard Renn ruled Tuesday that prosecutors had failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain the first-degree murder charge against Joseph Fitzpatrick III.

Prosecutors alleged that Fizpatrick drowned his wife, Annemarie Fitzpatrick, in a Chanceford Township creek in June 2012 but told police they crashed their all-terrain vehicle in the water.

Authorities alleged that he wanted out of his marriage, was emotionally involved with another woman and had a $1.7 million life insurance policy on his wife.

Jurors in May convicted him of first-degree murder, and he was immediately sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Renn noted that he had “some serious misgivings” about the verdict and believed “the only way for the jury to conclude that Annemarie Fitzpatrick was unlawfully killed would be to speculate that something untoward occurred at the creek.”

“Perhaps the jury was correct in its assessment, but our system of justice was not founded upon mere suspicions or gut feelings,” the judge wrote.

Defense attorney Chris Ferro said he was “ecstatic” about the ruling, calling it an “absolute win” for the defense.

“We’re going to take immediate steps … to get him out of jail and back with his family,” Ferro said.

Prosecutors said Tuesday they had already appealed the ruling to state Superior Court and vowed to defend the May jury conviction “to the full extent of the law.”

“Any dispassionate reading of the record reveals that the jury’s verdict was not remotely based upon suspicion or conjecture,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

___

This story has been corrected to note that the name of the defendant is Joseph Fitzpatrick III rather than Joseph Fitzpatrick.


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