WILMINGTON, Del. -- The day that trial followers have long awaited, but that his own defense attorneys feared, arrived yesterday: Thomas Capano took the witness stand in a risk-laden effort to save his own life.
Capano quickly took the offensive, anxious to counter weeks of testimony that portrayed him as a control freak who juggled affairs with several women and ultimately killed the one who dared to break up with him, Anne Marie Fahey. The 30-year-old scheduling secretary to the governor vanished after dining with him on June 27, 1996.
Capano, 49, speaking calmly if at times arrogantly, denigrated two major witnesses against him: his youngest brother, Gerry, who testified that he helped Capano dump a body into the Atlantic Ocean, and another lover, Deborah MacIntyre, who has said she bought a gun at his request and gave it to him shortly before Fahey disappeared.
Capano's attorneys have already suggested it was MacIntyre who shot and killed Fahey, and that Capano got rid of the body to cover up the death.
Capano contradicted MacIntyre's version of how their 18-year affair began; she had said he kissed her at a party and declared he was in love with her.
"She was very aggressive with me," Capano said.
Capano said MacIntyre started calling him, under the guise of helping plan a surprise birthday party for his then-wife, Kay. Capano said he was not interested in an affair with MacIntyre.
"Debbie was by far not the most attractive female in the group," Capano said of the blue-eyed blond whose earlier testimony provided sordid details of his sexual tastes, which include voyeurism and three-way sex.
How Capano overcame his initial lack of interest is a story for another day. After a juror became ill yesterday afternoon, the trial was recessed until today, when Capano will resume testifying.
Capano apparently changed his mind several times on whether he would testify in his own defense; most of his lawyers, however, strenuously argued against it.
"It's the one decision I've been allowed to make," Capano told Superior Court Judge William Swain Lee, who with the jury out of the courtroom extensively questioned him about his decision to take the stand. "I believe I should testify. I want to testify."
Capano's decision to testify means previously inadmissible evidence can now be introduced, including taped phone conversations Capano and MacIntyre had after she turned state's witness.
Prosecutors undoubtedly will cross-examine him on Fahey's death -- how he stuffed her nearly 6-foot frame into a 3-foot, 8-inch cooler and how, when the cooler failed to sink, he removed her body and weighed it down with an anchor. Fahey's body has not been recovered.
How Capano appears to the jury, and how he reacts to the pressure of cross-examination, could prove crucial to his fate.
"I understand all the garbage that is going to be thrown to me during the cross," said Capano to reassure the judge about his decision.
The courtroom was crowded with about 125 people who had anticipated Capano would take the stand, and others were left standing outside, having failed to get into the hottest show in town.
His mother and various siblings, offspring and other relatives assembled. Even Capano's former wife, who was granted a divorce as his murder trial was under way, made a brief appearance.
From the moment Capano took the stand, he took charge. Sometimes, he would respond to a question by his attorney Joseph Oteri by saying he would answer that, but wanted to continue a point he had started making. He began by portraying himself as the son of a hard-working, immigrant family.
"This part is pretty important to me," he told the jury, "because I've been portrayed as a spoiled rich kid, born with a silver spoon in my mouth."
He went on to characterize his background as blue-collar -- the jury is largely composed of non-professionals -- and his father as a carpenter. Louis Capano, however, had built up a large, financially successful construction company by the time of his death.
Capano spoke of his own law career, of delaying or interrupting lucrative positions to take lower-paying jobs in the public sector. He emphasized one particular duty, as counsel to then-Gov. Michael N. Castle, of handling a project that led to the expansion of the prison where he now is jailed.
Capano spent much of his first day on the stand criticizing his brother Gerry, calling him a longtime alcoholic and drug abuser whom several members of the family feared. Everything seemed fair game, even that Gerry Capano was banned at one of the two bars in his town.
"We were worried sick. We were ashamed," Capano said of his black-sheep brother. "We couldn't believe it. It was something we knew my father would turn over in his grave over."
Pub Date: 12/17/98