Law: The Rough-Sex Defense

When killers blame erotic impulses, does rough justice result?

Before he was charged with second-degree murder in the 1986 death of Kathleen Holland, 17, Joseph Porto calmly confessed on videotape that he had strangled his girlfriend till "my hands got tired," then used his high school graduation tassel to finish the job. Porto, now 19, gave a similar account to a prosecution psychiatrist, explaining that he had exploded in jealous anger when Holland told him she wanted to date other boys.

But when Porto took the witness stand at his trial on Long Island last month, he made a stunning recantation. He had invented the murder story, he tearfully claimed,...

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