MINEOLA, N.Y. -- The attorney for a 19-year-old Long Island man said Tuesday his client accidentally killed a 17-year-old girl during the heat of sexual passion and should be cleared of murder charges.
Lawyer Barry Slotnick said in final arguments in the 2-week-old trial that the death occurred while Joseph Porto and Kathleen Holland were experimenting in 'sexual asphyxia,' an act where a rope was looped around Holland's neck.
The rope was to be gently tightened to produce lightheadedness and enhance her sexual pleasure. But in a moment of sexual fervor, Porto accidentally pulled the rope too tight, Slotnick maintained.
'There was heightened, frenzied activity, and in the heat of passion, this terrible accident occurred,' Slotnick said.
'One yank, two yanks, and Kathleen Holland was dead,' Slotnick said.
The defense presented by Slotnick, who also defended subway gunman Bernhard Goetz, echoed that presented in a similar case in Manhattan where prep school graduate Robert Chambers said he accidentally killed an 18-year-old woman during rough sex.
Chambers agreed to a first-degree manslaughter conviction after the jury in the 3-month-long trial failed to reach a verdict.
Slotnick said Porto's testimony that he gave Holland, 17, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was evidence that he did not intend to kill her.
'This was a tragedy. We have lost the life of one teenager, and I am asking you not to destroy the life of another teenager involved in this same accident,' an impassioned Slotnick told the jury.
At that moment, Porto's father, Vincent, who was sitting in the front row of the courtroom, broke into tears. Porto's mother held a Bible in her lap and was fingering rosary beads.
'Joseph Porto did not purposefully kill Kathleen Holland,' Slotnick added. 'This is not a baseball game. We have a life at stake,'
He said Porto, 19, lied in his written and videotaped confession to police when he said he choked Hudson to death, with his hands and a high school graduation tassel, in a fit of jealousy when she told him she wanted to date other men.
'Why did he lie?' Slotnick asked.
'Joseph Porto was covering up the sexual asphyxia. He was ashamed of it, he was embarrassed. He couldn't tell anybody, he couldn't tell his parents, he couldn't even tell his lawyer until about a week before the trial began,' Slotnick stated.
He alluded to prosecution testimony that the romance had cooled in the months before Holland was strangled in the back of Porto's van, was parked in a secluded area of Old Brookville on Sept. 27, 1986.
Slotnick noted to the jury that they had read a series of cards and letters to Porto, mailed right up to the time of Holland's death, in which she expressed her undying love for him.
Porto, a handsome dark-haired man, sat at the defense table with his head bowed and never glanced at his attorney as he addressed the jury.