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Posted: 3/12/2002 10:17:53 AM EDT
Slaying defense uses victim's words: Angry phone tapes played at woman's trial The Record (Bergen County, NJ) NEWS ; Page A03 March 9, 2002 Byline: PAULO LIMA, STAFF WRITER Michael Collins voice spat insults from a silver micro-cassette player in a Hackensack courtroom Friday a voice from beyond the grave. "You're a little expletive and I know where you are and I'm going to come there and I'm going to start shooting," Collins screamed. The comments were some of Collins final words, left on his girlfriend Irene Swietkowski's answering machine about an hour before she fatally shot him inside his Hackensack apartment Sept. 4, 1999. Swietkowski, 26, is on trial for aggravated manslaughter. Seated at the defense table, Swietkowski was instantly affected as Collins voice resounded through the courtroom. The petite blonde's face contorted with emotion, flushed red, and finally released a quiet stream of tears. Defense attorney Jeffrey Garrigan is hoping the tape will help convince jurors that his client feared for her life when the drunken Collins confronted her that morning. Garrigan contends that Swietkowski picked up the gun in self-defense and that it went off as she and Collins struggled for control. Shot through the heart, Collins died almost instantly. Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer contends Swietkowski was reckless when she picked up the pistol. If convicted, Swietkowski faces up to 30 years in state prison. In his opening argument to the jury, Garrigan called the tape the most significant evidence in the case. In the hours preceding the shooting, the couple had argued while they were out bar hopping. Swietkowski drove off and left Collins beside the road in Saddle Brook. As he walked home, Collins left three telephone messages at 4:28 a.m., 4:41 a.m., and 5:13 a.m. on the answering machine at Swietkowski's home in Kearny, which she shared with her family. Unbeknown to Collins, Swietkowski had driven back to his Hackensack apartment and gone to sleep. In the second profanity-laced message, Collins is clearly unhappy to be on foot.
Link Posted: 3/12/2002 10:18:38 AM EDT
"Whoever is around you dies and you die," he said. "Leave me stranded, I'll teach you!" Blood tests revealed that Collins had cocaine in his system and a blood-alcohol level of 0.17 shortly after his death. Collins, 26, an electrician and part-time bouncer at a Hackensack go-go bar, had dated Swietkowski for about 7 1/2 years. The defense called two witnesses Friday. They testified that the 6- foot, 200-pound Collins had beaten Swietkowski in the past. Garrigan showed the jury enlarged photographs of Swietkowski bearing bruises around her eyes and along her jawline. One of her eyes was reddened from a ruptured blood vessel. One of the witnesses, Linda Macaluso, testified that she took Swietkowski to the Hackensack Police Department to seek a restraining order after the beating. A desk officer sent them to the municipal court building next door. When they could find no one there to help them, the desk officer told them to come back Monday, Macaluso said. "I was a little bit disappointed that the police weren't able to help us, so I took pictures of her face myself," Macaluso testified. Swietkowski's brother, Robert, drove his sister back to the police station a few days later. By then, however, she had changed her mind and refused to cooperate with police, he said. The case will resume Tuesday. The defense has not announced whether Swietkowski plans to testify. Superior Court Judge Donald R. Venezia told the jury he expects to turn the case over to them for deliberations Wednesday.
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