Obesity Defense Fails: 'Too Fat to Kill' Defendant Convicted

Defense argued a 299-pound man too fat to have committed murder. He lost.

ByABC News via GMA logo
October 29, 2009, 3:39 PM

Nov. 6, 2009 — -- A jury in New Jersey found that a man accused of killing his former son-in-law was not too overweight to have committed the crime.

Edward Ates, the Florida man whose attorney used an obesity defense in his month-long murder trial, was found guilty today on murder and weapons charges after two days of deliberation.

Ates weighed nearly 300 pounds and was five feet 8 inches tall. In 2006 he drove from his Florida home to New Jersey where he shot and killed Paul Duncsak, 40, 2006, prosecutors said. But defense attorney, Walter Lesnevich, told the court that Ates is not physically capable of pulling off the crime, citing the long drive and the stairs he would have had to climb and descend during the killing.

"You look at Ed, and you don't need to hear it from a doctor," Lesnevich said.

Duncsak's family saw it differently. "It doesn't bring him back, but at least he won't get away with it," his sister-in-law, Barbara Duncsak, told the Associated Press. "It's satisfying. It was a long time coming."

The charges against Ates included first-degree murder, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The judge in the case revoked Ates bail and set a sentencing date for Dec. 17, the Associated Press reported.

Ates' "morbid obesity" caused asthma, sleep apnea and other obesity-related ailments, Lesnevich said. He added that Ates was a longtime smoker.

Duncsak was shot once in the leg at an upward angle before the shooter bounded up four stairs and fired several more highly accurate and fatal shots, investigators said.

Ates' doctor testified that running up those stairs would have taken a toll on a man the size of Ates, likely causing his hands to shake, making firing a gun accurately difficult.

He also testified there's no way he could have then driven 21 hours straight.

"He could go up four steps, but could he then maintain the pistol straight and not miss? That's a tough shot," Lesnevich told "Good Morning America" last week. "It was more than 4 feet away."