SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 6, 2013

SJC to Danvers cop-slasher: Trial was legal

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — Throughout his trial last spring, Roy Limbaugh repeatedly claimed that the proceedings were illegal, since he had appealed a pretrial ruling to the full Supreme Judicial Court, which hadn’t yet ruled on the issue.

But this week, Limbaugh, convicted in May of the attempted murder of a Danvers police patrolman, was told in no uncertain terms by the SJC that he had no legal right to appeal a judge’s denial of his motion — he was seeking a dismissal of the charges — until after the trial.

Limbaugh, 60, formerly of Danvers, is serving 24 to 26 years in state prison, a sentence imposed in May by Salem Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead. Limbaugh is at MCI Cedar Junction, a maximum-security prison in Walpole.

At the time of the incident in 2011, Danvers police had been trying to find Limbaugh, a convicted sex offender, to get him to register where he was working.

Limbaugh had insisted that he need only tell the police he was “self-employed,” and that he did not have to disclose where he was working on any given day.

On the morning of Aug. 19, 2011, John Melto, a veteran patrolman, went to the door of the trailer where Limbaugh had been living on Popes Lane.

Shortly after that, a jury later concluded, Melto was “ambushed” by Limbaugh, who pulled up alongside his police cruiser, lured the officer into conversation, and then used a sharp object, believed to be some type of razor or box-cutter, to slash the officer’s throat and arms.

After a judge denied Limbaugh’s pretrial motion to dismiss the charges, Limbaugh, who was representing himself after firing a series of other attorneys, filed what is called an “interlocutory appeal,” an appeal prior to trial.

Justice Francis Spina rejected the appeal.

Limbaugh appealed that ruling by the single justice, and insisted, repeatedly, that his trial be delayed until the full SJC could rule on it.

Whitehead, familiar with the legal standard for an interlocutory appeal, denied the request, over Limbaugh’s protests.

In an opinion issued earlier this week, the court said Limbaugh had not shown that there was any reason for the court to act on his pretrial appeal. Limbaugh, like any other defendant convicted of a crime, has the right to raise all legal issues, such as the denial of the motion to dismiss, during his appeal after a verdict.

“It is incumbent on Limbaugh, as the appellant, to demonstrate that ‘review of the trial court decision cannot adequately be obtained on appeal from any final adverse judgment in the trial court or by other available means,’” the court said in its ruling, quoting from the court’s procedural rules. “He has not made such a showing.”

“There is no reason Limbaugh cannot obtain the relief he seeks, if warranted, in his direct appeal,” the court said.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.