BOSTON — Attorneys for twin brothers Daniel and Peter McGuane are set to argue before the state Appeals Court on Wednesday that their convictions should be overturned because the trial judge improperly let the jury hear of one brother’s past bullying of the victim.
The McGuanes were convicted of manslaughter in the 2005 beating death of 19-year-old Kelly Proctor of Ayer.
Although the McGuanes, also Ayer residents, have been released after serving the low side of their three- to five-year prison sentences, they have appealed to get their convictions overturned.
Through their attorneys, they claim the judge committed several errors during the trial, and prosecutors failed to prove that the twins caused Proctor’s death.
Years before the suicide of South Hadley teen Phoebe Prince made headlines due to the tragic results of bullying, Daniel and Peter McGuane were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter with “wanton and reckless conduct and battery” for the 30-second fight during the Ayer fireworks festivities on July 2, 2005.
Proctor died of a fatal concussion. The 2004 Nashoba Valley Technical High School graduate was a popular high-school athlete who lettered in track, football and basketball. His nickname, “Dr. Proctor,” was inscribed on his class ring, friends and family said.
Conversely, the McGuane brothers had a reputation for bullying and harassing their peers, according to prosecutors.
Defense attorney Robert O’Meara, representing
Daniel McGuane, argues in court documents that Judge Diane Kottmyer improperly allowed the jury to hear that when Proctor was in middle school, Daniel McGuane slapped him, believing Proctor had an incident with McGuane’s sister.
He argued that allowing the jury to hear about that incident was “too speculative, prejudicial and remote.”
Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Anne Pogue denied O’Meara’s claims, saying the slapping incident was “strikingly similar to an injury Peter McGuane inflicted here (the Proctor killing case).”
She added that the incident was relevant to the twins’ “motive, intent and their relationship with the victim.”
Pogue argued that there was ongoing animosity between the McGuanes and Proctor, including “trash-talking.” It was relevant because at trial, the McGuanes’ attorneys argued that Proctor’s death was an accident or self-defense.
The defense attorneys moved for a mistrial, which was denied by the trial judge.
The trial was mired in controversy after the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, one month before the trial, was forced to reduce the charges to manslaughter from first-degree murder after a botched autopsy report from state Medical Examiner Dr. William Zane.
Zane initially ruled that Proctor had brain swelling and bleeding due to blunt-force trauma after being severely beaten by the McGuanes. But a neuropathologist from the medical examiner’s office contradicted Zane’s results, testifying she found no swelling or bleeding and could only suggest the cause of death was a fatal concussion.
Zane admitted on the stand that he had made a mistake. Zane was later placed on restricted duty, while his boss, Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum, was fired by Gov. Deval Patrick.