Farmington HillsSeptember 5, 2012
Mental state of suspects in baseball bat attack remains in question
By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer
The mental competency and statements made by two suspects accused of killing a Farmington Hills father and severely injuring his wife and son will likely be called into question as the trials move forward in Oakland County Circuit Court.
Both suspects, Tucker Cipriano, 19, and Mitchell Young, 20, appeared briefly before Judge Shalina Kumar in orange prison garb and belly chains Sept. 4.
Kumar arraigned Cipriano and Young on charges of murder, assault and robbery 11 days after a district court judge decided that enough evidence existed for them to stand trial. Police and prosecutors say the two men killed Tucker Cipriano’s father, Robert Cipriano, and severely injured Tucker Cipriano’s mother, Rose, and brother Salvatore, 17, inside the Cipriano home April 16. Police testimony during the preliminary examination in district court indicated that the attack involved baseball bats.
A friend’s testimony during the preliminary exam indicated that Tucker Cipriano had broken into the family home, where he was no longer living, twice earlier that evening to get money.
Tucker Cipriano’s attorney, Mitchell Ribitwer, said after the Sept. 4 proceedings that results of his client’s psychiatric exam should be released in two to three weeks. He said he will likely be filing a motion for separate trials for both suspects and to quash statements Tucker Cipriano made to police that Ribitwer said were “not true.”
Ribitwer said separate trials would likely involve moving separate juries in and out of the courtroom during witness testimony. Separate trials are needed because each suspect’s statements implicate the other, he said. He added that the trials will likely not occur until early next year.
There seems little chance that either defendant will take the witness stand, leaving Young’s attorney, Michael J. McCarthy, without the opportunity to question Tucker Cipriano and Ribitwer without the opportunity to question Young. The result is that each defendant’s statement may only be used against him, not his codefendant.
Tucker Cipriano, who Ribitwer said was still “very distraught and withdrawn,” kept his head lowered during the proceedings.
“I don’t think prosecutors will offer a deal, but we’d be willing to listen,” Ribitwer said.
He said he believes that based on research, Tucker Cipriano could be psychotic as a result of abusing K-2 and other substances for “a number of years” and that criminal responsibility is still an issue.
Ribitwer said that Tucker Cipriano has received visitors in jail, but could not say if they were family. He said that Tucker Cipriano heard reports that his mother and brother are now walking and speaking. Both Rose and Salvatore Cipriano have been transferred from Botsford Hospital to rehab facilities.
“He’s happy to know they are improving,” Ribitwer said. “He’s upset about the entire situation.”
At the pretrial exam Sept. 4, Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney John Skrzynski said they are still waiting for DNA evidence to return from the Michigan State Police crime lab and a forensic report on Young’s mental state.
McCarthy said he will likely file motions to quash general information on his belief that the district court erred in binding Young over for trial, and to quash statements Young made to detectives in the hospital after he suffered a dislocated jaw, which McCarthy said Tucker Cipriano inflicted in the Cipriano home. In general, a motion to quash the general information could ask for a case to be dismissed or a charge reduced.
McCarthy said he will also ask that Young be granted a separate trial.
“This is known as the Cipriano case,” he said. “ (Young is) characterized as the other guy.” He added that he doesn’t want Young to be swept along by the sentiment surrounding Tucker Cipriano.
Kumar set Young’s pretrial hearing for Sept. 26 and Tucker Cipriano’s pretrial conference for Sept. 25.
Staff Writer David Wallace contributed to this report.
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