Murder conviction upheldPublished 10:51am Thursday, August 6, 2009
ST. JOSEPH – In an opinion released Aug. 4, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Frank Thomas Spagnola’s first-degree murder conviction.
Spagnola was convicted of the June 30, 2000, murder of Lisa Fein, the mother of his son. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. The case was procedurally unusual in that Spagnola filed a motion for a new trial in 2004 that took nearly four years to resolve.
The motion largely concerned the effectiveness of Spagnola’s trial attorney, primarily as it related to the handling of DNA evidence.
DNA matching the defendant’s profile was found on Fein’s right-hand fingernails.
The Court of Appeals rejected numerous arguments by Spagnola. These included claims his trial attorney provided him with constitutionally inadequate representation, that evidence against him was erroneously admitted, that he was denied an impartial jury and that he was denied the opportunity to present a viable defense.
The court described evidence against Spagnola as “overwhelming,” noting, among other things: ample evidence of motive based on Spagnola’s prolonged and heated battle with Fein over custody of their son; his large child support debt; evidence he previously attempted to hire someone to kill Fein; and his ownership of a towel, pillowcases and duct tape similar to those used to suffocate Fein.