NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Superior Court Judge Richard Damiani, who presided over some of the state’s highest profile cases during a career that lasted almost three decades, has died. He was 66.
Damiani had been hospitalized since being found unconscious in his home on Sunday.
Neil Rapuano, owner of Maresca & Sons Funeral Home in New Haven, said Damiani died on Monday.
Damiani served for 26 years as a judge, most recently as the presiding criminal judge in Waterbury Superior Court. He had also served in Superior Courts in Ansonia, Bridgeport, Meriden, New Haven, and Hartford, where he handled some of the state’s highest profile criminal cases.
“Judge Damiani epitomized everything a judge should be and was a wonderful person on every level,” Robert Serafinowicz, a criminal defense attorney, told the Republican-American newspaper. “My heart goes out to his family. He was truly one of a kind and touched all of those who knew him. I consider myself lucky to have known him and value everything he taught me.”
Damiani was a member of the three-judge panel that sentenced Robert J. Breton Sr. to death in 1997 for the murder of his 38-year-old ex-wife and their 16-year-old son in Waterbury.
He also issued a key ruling in the death-penalty case of Robert Courchesne, convicted of capital felony in the 1998 stabbing deaths of Demetris Rodgers and the child she had been carrying 8 1/2 months.
Damiani ruled in 1999 that even though Antonia Rodgers was fatally injured before she was born, Courchesne could be charged with her murder because she lived for 42 days.
Damiani also signed the arrest warrant in 2001 that allowed police to charge former Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano with sexually assaulting two young girls.
He gained a reputation as one of the state’s hardest working judges, keeping full calendars and not tolerating tardiness from attorneys.
“Whoever said the wheels of justice turn slowly never met Richard Damiani,” Bridgeport State’s Attorney John Smriga told the Connecticut Post. “He possessed a phenomenal work capacity which he exercised while maintaining the respect of lawyers, litigants and his fellow judges. He will be sorely missed.”
Damiani was born in New Haven in 1946 and graduated from Providence College and the University of Connecticut Law School. He served as a prosecutor and private attorney before being sworn in as a Superior Court judge on Nov. 6, 1985.
Rapuano said funeral arrangements were incomplete Tuesday.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)