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February 4, 2011

Judge’s calm demeanor wins praise in the courtroom

Posted: 01:01 PM ET

Cleveland, OH- The Honorable Deena Calabrese had been on the bench for less than one year when she inherited the high-profile case of Ohio v. Essa from her predecessor.

Getting such a high publicity case in her rookie year seems oddly fitting for the former sex crimes prosecutor whose life and career have been marked by baptism-by-fire type challenges.

Capitalizing on Obama’s popularity, Calabrese ran as a Democrat and won in her first bid to be judge, a career she wanted ever since she was in the 3rd grade and asked her mother to make her a black robe for a Halloween costume.

She began her prosecutorial career trying cases in Youngstown, Ohio, the city so notorious for its violence that it was once dubbed “Murder town U.S.A.” In her first trial, a felony rape case, she was up against the president of the Defense Bar Association, an adversary whose years of experience nearly exceeded her age. When she asked for help, her supervisor gave her a trial manual.  The experience left the young prosecutor badly bruised but not defeated. She doubled her efforts and when she wasn’t trying cases she was watching and learning from more experienced prosecutors. 

Presiding over the Yazeed Essa murder trial put the 38-year-old judge in the unique position of being familiar with the trial tactics and skills of both lead attorneys.  Calabrese had tried cases against defense counsel Mark Marein, and lead prosecutor A. Steven Dever served as her supervisor when she was trying sex crimes in Cuyahoga County.

It was a trial that represented many “firsts” for the young judge, including how to juggle work and child care. In her first year on the bench she gave birth to her son Jack.

Despite her relative lack of experience on the bench, the attorneys praised her in open court, and her warmth and humor often helped to keep tempers in check. It appeared to have made a big impression on the jury. They presented her with a mahogany gavel inscribed with “Ohio v. Essa.”

Judge Calabrese is the first to admit that her youthful appearance can be deceiving. She told In Session how on one occasion she was in the courtroom without her judge’s robe and overheard a defendant berating his girlfriend who he was convicted of assaulting. The defendant later appeared before Calabrese for sentencing and realized to his horror that the woman he had so carelessly dismissed was his judge.

“I’m in trouble aren’t I?” he said. “Yes you are,” she said and promptly gave him the toughest penalty she could under the law.

The judge didn’t have the same discretion when she sentenced Dr. Essa. Under Ohio law, the only sentence she could hand down was life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

-Grace Wong, In Session Senior Field Producer

Filed under: Sentencing • Trials


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betty   February 4th, 2011 1:24 pm ET

so glad he was found guilty it will not bring rosie back but it will help her family cope with her death .


Trialwatcher   February 4th, 2011 1:44 pm ET

I am waiting until today's In Session to end before I read the article above, but I want to commend everyone at In Session and TruTv and CNN and Headline News and Nancy Grace and Jane Velez Mitchell as well as all the commentators and guest on the programming dealing with real life crime. The defense Attorneys remind all of the accused's right to a fair trial, the Prosecuting Attorneys make us realize that we all have the privilege and responsibility to have courage and to speak truthfully even against those whom we love in order to protect our common welfare. Most Kudos to the producers of these shows for waking us all up to the endless suffering inflicted on victims, their families, their communities and society as a whole by the wicked an d selfish action of some. We can never think of crime as a minor matter of little consequence. Thank you and God bless you.


Melba in Florida   February 4th, 2011 2:29 pm ET

Judge Calabrese said it all when she sentenced Essa. I believe he will be in prison for the rest of his life – no parole for him as long as the DiPuccio family attends. I am happy for them that this is over and wish them all the best. In my views, he's right up there with Scott Peterson. In both cases, the way Rosemarie and Lacy were killed, both suffered. If you're not happy – divorce – but no, that would be too easy and cost them too much money. Look what it's costs the American tax payers.....we educate, feed, cloth, house and give medical care to these criminals for years. I'm for the death penalty – bring back hanging and the electric chair. Of course, maybe it should an eye for an eye – we might have less crime in this country.


Gretchen   February 4th, 2011 2:54 pm ET

I think his sentence should be to take the same poisoned pills that he gave to Rosie. He should feel all the same torture that he chose for her.


Daisy   February 5th, 2011 2:59 am ET

I didnot think justice had been served, I believed the state didinot prove the case, The jury convicted because the DEFENSE had lack of emotions.


Tabbmomof2   February 5th, 2011 9:45 am ET

Watching the sentencing of Yazeed Essa was incredible. I was so impressed with how The Honorable Deena Calabrese handled the sentencing (and the entire trial). I loved what she said to the convicted murderer before she actually sentenced him. He did not look happy!


alessandro   February 5th, 2011 4:04 pm ET

Judge Deena Calabrese handled the Ohio vs Essa case with admirable aplomb and exceeding professionalism. Our hearts go out to the victim's family. We ask our Lord, that the profound goodness, faith and love of the DiPuccio family will continue to see them through such an incalculable loss. Their sense of dignity and spiritual fortitude have lifted us above the pain. Please let us know if a foundation in the name of Ms. Rosemarie DiPuccio, will be or has been established.


dano   February 5th, 2011 10:41 pm ET

I wonder what his defense attorneys really thought of that man? I wonder to who paid them?


sandy   February 7th, 2011 2:57 pm ET

I think the doctor should have gotten death!!!!!!!


carla   February 8th, 2011 2:24 pm ET

the think the judge in this case did a excellent job... i just loved the words she used to describe the cold hearted doctor..i am hoping he doesnt see the light of day ever again for all the heartache he has caused this family and his children..i dont think he even considered divorce,cause then he would have too much to have to give her..may he suffer the rest of his life thinking of all the hateful things he has done!


Sylvia   February 9th, 2011 8:59 am ET

Ecstatic over the verdict!! God willl bless the Dipuccio family in ways beyond OUR understanding . I'm sure He put the Honorable Deena Calabrese there just for Rosie. I pray that everyone can go forward and be happy, because Rosie would want it that way. My prayers are with you.


Dee   February 9th, 2011 10:59 am ET

Daisy – YES, the case was proven beyond any shadow of a doubt. His own brother testified that he confessed – as well as another witness that he had been bragging about the killing because she cheated. We all know he was the only cheat in that marriage. You can be like the rest of the women who want him and bellieve anything he says – but most of us are smarter than that.

Real justice would be him dying the same way Rose Marie did – and he should really suffer.



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