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9133: Sentence of 20 years to life for murder (fwd)
HAITIAN WOMAN GETS 20 TO LIFE FOR KILLING NEIGHBOR
LONG FEUD ERUPTED IN VIOLENCE AS SHE RAN OVER HIM IN CAR
THE JOURNAL NEWS
[Westchester County, New York]
Tuesday, September 25, 2001
White Plains -- A Yonkers woman who ended a lenghty feud with her 74-year old
neighbor by repeatedly driving over him with her car was sentenced yesterday
to 20 years to life in state prison.
Clunie Bernard, 41, was convicted in June of second-degree murder in the
death of William Taino, who was crushed by Bernard's car May 3, 2000, as he
sat in his driveway. She sat stoically at the defense table yesterday as
Taino's eldest daughter spoke of the void she had left in the victim's family.
"There is very little joy in our lives, and everything is overshadowed by
this horrific crime," Carolann Grieve told Westchester County Judge Lester
Adler. "And all this pain and suffering is due to the senseless and selfish
acts of one person. And in the end what did she accomplish by committing this
horrible crime? She not only destroyed us, but she also destroyed her own
Grieve, an Armonk resident, joined Assistant District Attorney Timothy Ward
in asking Adler to impose the maximum sentence, 25 years to life, arguing
that Bernard "showed no mercy for my father, and we have no mercy for her."
Defense lawyer Barry Turner asked for the minimum, 15 years to life, saying
that would be punishment enough for a woman with no criminal record who had
acted in a spontaneous fit of rage.
Adler gave a compromise sentence. He criticized Bernard for her lack of
remorse and said she had other options that day, including just walking away.
"Instead, you chose the most unacceptable option," Adler said. "You chose to
kill Mr. Taino, and you did it in a manner that was particularly repulsive.
Your actions were chilling, violent and destructive."
Taino, a former Marine who was a tailor, a produce man and, later, a school
bus driver, raised three children with his wife, Anna, in their home on
narrow Depew Avenue. Bernard moved in across the street about a decade ago,
eventually keeping the house after divorcing her husband. Bernard was a
well-respected pharmacist at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in
the Bronx. She had come to the United States from Haiti as a teen-ager and
fulfilled the American dream, her lawyer said.
The killing last year took neighborly squabbles to the extreme. The two
frequently fought over leaf blowing, parking and snow removal. On May 3,
2000, they got into a heated argument while Taino was blowing leaves from his
yard. Bernard swung a pickax, striking the leaf-blower in Taino's hands, and
he left to file a complaint at the nearby Yonkers police precinct.
He was told to wait for a patrol car and returned home and sat in his
driveway. Bernard said that she believed he was feigning injury and that she
snapped when he threatened to sue her. She got into her car, drove over him
as many as six times and then stood calmly, waiting for police.
The jury rejected Bernard's claim of diminished capacity and found that she
had no mental illness that would have compromised her ability to recognize
that driving over Taino was wrong. Turner asked the jury unsuccessfully to
convict Bernard only of manslaughter on the ground that she was suffering
from '"extreme emotional disturbance" at the moment she struck.
Bernard chose not to speak on her own behalf yesterday, but Turner said his
client had asked him to tell Taino's family that she was sorry for what had
happened. Bernard's younger sister and other relatives declined to comment
after the sentencing.
Anna Taino said she and her children were disappointed that Adler offered
Bernard some leniency.
"She showed no remorse," Taino's widow said. "I hope her life in jail is as
miserable as she is."