DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A federal appeals court has reinstated the murder conviction of a 72-year-old doctor who is serving a life sentence for the death of a nurse 30 years ago.
The court said Dr. Jasubhai Desai’s rights weren’t violated when prosecutors used a confession from codefendant Stephen Adams, who said he was hired to kill Ann Marie Turetzky.
A federal judge threw out Desai’s conviction last year, noting that the confession came through a second party, but the appeals court reversed that decision Wednesday. It’s the fifth time the murder charge has been dismissed or overturned.
Turetzky was Desai’s former lover and business partner in two Downriver-area medical clinics. Desai wasn’t charged until 1995, 12 years after Turetzky’s death. It took another six years to hold a trial as Desai argued that too much time had elapsed between the murder and the charges.
Turetzky and Desai began working together in the 1970s and soon, a business partnership turned into a romantic relationship. Yet, by the early 1980s, the affair and partnership started to fray. Disagreements about money, authority and questionable billing practices began to tear the two apart.
According to court testimony, former employees said the two argued often, sometimes resulting in physical altercations. Turetzky’s children told the court their mother said once that if anything happened to her, Desai would be behind it.
In the early fall of 1982, Desai and Turetzky officially agreed to split their businesses; she would get the clinic in Trenton and he would take the clinic in Monroe. They even took out a $1.25-million insurance policy covering each other’s interest in the clinics.
Turetzky’s children said they last saw their mother on Nov. 3, 1983, when she headed to the Best Western Motel in Woodhaven for a meeting with Desai. Turetzky’s body was found four days later, on Nov. 7, in the front seat of her blue Cadillac in the motel’s parking lot just off I-75.
According to police records, Turetzky had been manually strangled. She also had scratches under her eyes, marks under her chin and on her hands, bruising on her neck and dried blood on her mouth.
Years passed before investigators learned Adams, Desai’s former medical assistant, allegedly confessed to killing Turetzky. Court records show Adams allegedly told Lawrence Gorski, who was considered a possible suspect, that he killed Turetzky at Desai’s direction.
U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani wrote in a court filing that the alleged confession “took place between two toilet stalls inside the men’s bathroom of a bar” in early December 1983.
In 1995, murder and conspiracy charges in connection with Turetzky’s death were announced against Desai and Adams. Then in 1997, a Wayne County Circuit Judge dismissed the charges, saying that prosecutors waited too long.
Over the next few years, the case went back and forth between state and federal courts before Desai and Adams finally stood trial in 2001.
The trial, with separate juries for Desai and Adams, went on for weeks and the results were mixed. After a month of trial, Adams’ jury deadlocked with no verdict. Desai’s panel convicted him of first-degree murder and he was given the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
“Here, the crucial, dispositive piece of evidence against (Desai) was exceptionally weak: It consisted only of codefendant Adams’ wholly unreliable hearsay confession,” Battani wrote in the 2012 court filing.
Months after Desai was sentenced, Adams pleaded no contest to solicitation to do great bodily harm and got 10 months in jail with five years of probation.
After sentencing, Desai’s legal team went to work trying to appeal the court’s decision. In 2007, Battani granted Desai’s appeal, ruling the use of Adams’ confession violated Desai’s right to a fair trial. Desai was freed on bond and prosecutors decided not to retry him. Instead, they appealed Battani’s decision.
Federal appellate judges overturned Battani, saying that Desai had not exhausted all his state appeals before going into federal court. Desai was ordered back to jail and his case careened through state and federal courts, through appeal after appeal, ever since.
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