A stroke may have helped land James Brescia in prison. It may also be his ticket out.
Brescia, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2008, will get a new trial after the state Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court’s decision to grant his appeal on Friday. Brescia was accused of hiring a hit man to kill Edward Schiller, who was found shot in the head outside his office in Newton, because Schiller was seeing Brescia’s soon-to-be-ex-wife.
Brescia testified in his own defense, saying that while he offered Scott Foxworth money to threaten or beat Schiller up, he never asked him to murder Schiller, and later called the arrangement off and asked for his money back.
Here’s where it gets complicated: Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, Brescia had a stroke between his first and second day of testimony. The stroke was not discovered until after the jury began deliberations, and jurors were not told about it before they found him guilty.
He appealed his conviction in 2011, saying that the stroke affected his ability to testify. He mentioned a headache in court and seemed confused at times or hesitant to answer questions.
A judge agreed that the jury’s opinion of Brescia’s guilt may have been unfairly swayed by his medical condition, and ordered a new trial. The state appealed.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Friday upheld the lower court’s decision.
“We will continue to seek justice for Edward Schiller and have every intention of retrying the case,’’ said Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.
Schiller’s family, which declined to comment on Friday’s decision, created a website about their son and brother after his murder, with photos of Schiller enjoying life as he rode motorcycles, went fishing, and launched himself off ski jumps.
“The world is a lesser place without Ed in it,’’ wrote his brother Carl.