Jurors hold Maimoni's fate

Jurors in the Thomas J. Maimoni murder trial began deliberations yesterday after the defense presented final witnesses who contended that Martha Brailsford's death at sea was an accident.

"If you have reasonable doubt you must aquit Thomas Maimoni," said defense attorney Jeffrey Denner, stressing that Brailsford, 37, was already dead when Maimoni strapped a weight belt and anchor to her body and dumped her over the side of his boat.

"Ask yourself if you believe the defense," countered an emotional Kevin Mitchell as he presented the prosecution's closing argument. "there never was an accident. She never, ever fell into the water."

Maimoni, 48 on trial in Superior Court, is accused of drowning his Salem neighbor by throwing her from his sailboat off Gloucester on July 12, 1991. Maimoni claims he sunk the body in a state of panic after choppy waters and a loose mast knocked Brailsford overboard.

[Dr.] Shapse and Psychiatrist Harold J. Bursztajn testified that Maimoni suffered from a longtime personality disorder and that the incident triggered a psychosis that further loosened his grip on reality. He also said Maimoni also "abhors" and "runs away" from violence and was incapable of murder and probably acted out of self-preservation with the idea that if he hid the body his problem would "magically" disappear.

"What he experienced was an overwhelming sense of helplessness and panic," said Bursztajn. "Mr. Maimoni was not thinking rationally."

In his cross-examination and closing argument, Mitchell repeatedly attacked the witnesses' testimony and their picture of Maimoni as a non-violent person.

"How about putting an anchor and a weight belt around a live woman and dropping her into the water," he asked one doctor. "Isn't that a proclivity for violence."

Verdict: Against public expectations, the jury declined the prosecution's ardent plea for a first degree murder conviction. The defendant was instead convicted of a lesser, second degree murder.

Reprinted from Boston Herald of 2/12/93