'Too fat to kill' appeal focuses on wiretap law

 NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The “too fat to kill” defense didn’t work for a Florida man convicted of murdering his son-in-law in 2006, so he is appealing his conviction on the grounds that New Jersey’s wiretapping law is unconstitutional.

New Jersey’s Supreme Court will hear arguments in Edward Ates’ case today in Trenton.

The victim, Paul Duncsak, was shot six times at his home in Ramsey. Prosecutors said the 40-year-old pharmaceutical executive and Ates’ daughter, Stacey, were involved in a bitter custody dispute after their divorce.
Prosecutors contended that Ates drove up from Florida and broke into Duncsak’s house, then shot him several times before driving back south.

At his 2009 trial, Ates’ defense centered around a novel theory: In his 60s and at 5-feet-8 and 285 pounds with numerous health problems, he wasn’t physically capable of running up a flight of stairs to shoot Duncsak, then escape by driving nearly 24 hours straight to his mother’s home in Sibley, La., as investigators believed.

A jury didn’t buy it and convicted Ates of murder, felony murder and other counts. A judge sentenced him to life in prison.

A key piece of evidence in the trial was a wiretapped conversation between Ates and his sister in Louisiana after Duncsak was killed, in which Ates repeatedly went over the timing of his return to make sure stories matched up. His sister later testified that she misled police about the day Ates arrived in Louisiana because her brother had asked her to lie.

While a warrant was required in Florida to search Ates’ residence in Fort Pierce, the phone conversation with his sister was recorded without the need of a warrant in Florida. Ates claimed in his appeal that even if New Jersey authorities followed the letter of the law, the law itself is unconstitutional. 


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