Damien Lamb smiles at his mother as she testifies during a hearing for his potential retrial on Monday.
Damien Lamb smiles at his mother as she testifies during a hearing for his potential retrial on Monday. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

PITTSFIELD -- Convicted killer Damien Lamb, serving a life sentence for the 2005 death of a 21-year-old man whose body was never recovered, is seeking a retrial on the grounds that he was denied his right to a public trial.

Lamb appeared in Berkshire Superior Court on Monday with Northampton-based attorney Michael G. Malkovich, who argued that several family members and friends of his client were denied access to the court during jury selection and other parts of the trial, which violated his client's Sixth Amendment rights.

Lamb, now 31, was convicted of killing Brandon LaBonte in Becket on the night of Feb. 16, 2005, over a $150 debt. Police and prosecutors alleged that Lamb, a martial arts expert, handcuffed the victim, strangled him with a rope, beat him with a shovel and stomped on the body. He then disposed of the remains, which have never been found, according to earlier Eagle reports. Lamb was also convicted of several other charges related to an earlier beating involving the same victim.

His trial attorney, William A. Rota, had argued that the commonwealth had no proof that a homicide had even taken place and suggested that LaBonte's disappearance was a missing person's case.

During Monday's daylong hearing, Lamb, looking older and more burly than at his 2007 murder trial, sat with his attorney and took notes on a legal pad.

The hearing saw testimony from Lamb's trial lawyer, a former Eagle reporter, the defendant's mother and 10 current or former court security officers.

Final arguments in the motion for a new trial aren't scheduled until Sept.19, after which time Judge John A. Agostini will make a decision in the case.

Agostini oversaw Lamb's nearly month-long trial in September and October 2006. After a jury convicted Lamb of second-degree murder following two days of deliberations, the judge ordered that he serve life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 15 years.

Lamb is currently serving his prison sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk.

While there had been a previous motion for a new trial, along with a later supplemental motion -- which were both denied -- the newest motion is the first based on what Lamb's lawyer says is new evidence.

On Monday, Lamb's mother, Nancy Dewkett, testified that she was kept out of the courtroom during jury selection by a court security officer. Several others told similar stories of being barred from entering court.

Terri Vivencio, Lamb's aunt, said she and her son drove up from Belchertown for the trial but were turned away.

"We were told we couldn't come in because they were picking a jury," she told the court.

Her son, John Davies, recalled that he spoke with an Eagle reporter outside the courtroom who said that none of them were being allowed in.

Former Eagle reporter Jack Dew, who covered some of the Lamb trial, recalled on Monday that he was kept from entering the courtroom during jury selection on one occasion during the nine years he worked for the newspaper, but he couldn't recall if it had been during the Lamb trial.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Pieropan called a succession of court security officers to the stand. They all denied that they kept anyone from coming into court during the trial.

Victim-witness advocate Mary Shogry-Hayer, who works for the DA's Office, also took the stand and denied keeping anyone from entering the court during the trial.

Rota was also called to testify for the prosecution on Monday. He said he had no recollection of anyone telling him they had been denied access to the court during the trial.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
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