Dateline | November 07, 2013
>>> it was the defense 's turn. paul novak would not take the stand to proclaim his innocence.
>> my plea is not guilty.
>> instead his defense attorney , gary greenwald , did the talking.
>> i'm going to tell you, you're going to have reasonable doubt .
>> his arguments don't believe everything you hear. consider the source. consider the mental states of the key witnesses. consider their possible motives. he started by attacking paul 's ex-girlfriend, michelle lafrance. the woman paul had thrown out of his house.
>> she was a liar. she was manipulative. willing to take whatever steps necessary to hurt paul .
>> the defense tried to portray her as unstable, offering evidence of everything from suicide attempts to a bizarre drunken incident involving the police.
>> six officers to take me down. and i apparently had to be handcuffed to a tree. topless. i had bruises from fighting, from fighting the tree.
>> the defense attacked her credibility and used her own words to portray her as a liar who carried on a string of affairs with married men.
>> i was sleeping around. i think i slept with half the town.
>> probably one of the most promiscuous people who i have seen testify in open court .
>> the defense also argued scott sherwood suffered from serious mental health issues.
>> scott sherwood , from the time he was eight years old was being treated for major psychiatric problems. one of the crucial pieces of evidence was his psychologist who testified that when he was put into a conflict situation would say whatever was necessary to get out.
>> i think some people would have a hard time wrapping their head around why three separate people would all lie.
>> the reality is, i take elise out of the picture because she lied to support her husband. scott had a psychiatric problem and he was manipulated, in my opinion, by michelle . michelle was a woman scorned.
>> and the defense argued their stories were tainted because michelle had been given full immunity when she agreed to testify against paul and sherwood made a plea deal on a reduced charge of three to seven years. next the defense went after the evidence that seemed to support sherwood 's story. specifically the story of the license plate taken the morning of the murder.
>> one piece of evidence that seemed pretty damning was the ez pass record that showed sherwood 's suv passing the bridge for the right time for this crime.
>> the answer to that is very simple. it proves nothing. it's a picture of a license plate . no picture of who is in the vehicle. how do you know as we're sitting here now that scott sherwood or possibly michelle were not in that vehicle? the answer is, up don't.
>> greenwald dismissed that receipt from the walmart in middletown.
>> is it just a coincidence that someone went into walmart around 1:30 in the morning the morning of catherine 's death and bought a hat, gloves and duct tape all the things that were supposedly used in her murder?
>> okay. first of all, mr. sherwood admitted under oath to me that he got to middletown at 12:00 . he never could have been there at 1:30 or so because he was out by 12:15 .
>> still, there was an age-old motive, money, to explain away. and in our interview, paul himself had an answer for that.
>> are you having any financial issues at this point?
>> actually, at that point i was in a much better financial situation than i had been previously because i had ended up getting a second job at new york hospital in queens which was very high-paying.
>> and then greenwald called what he said was his most crucial witness. paul 's landlord. the defense wanted to use him to undermine a key part of the prosecution's case. remember, scott sherwood said after the murder he and paul drove home to paul 's house.
>> you go straight to paul 's house in glenn cove?
>> it was disputed. he said he was setting for a photo shoot starting in the early morning and didn't lay eyes on either of them.
>> how could the man be out sherwood or paul ? there's only one way. it didn't happen.
>> the landlord's testimony was proof, the lawyer argued, that scott sherwood had made up his story. the defense closed its case claiming the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that paul was a killer.
>> paul novak is not guilty. and we ask you to find that.
>> after seven weeks, the jury finally began to deliberate. going into the trial, paul was certain they would find him not guilty.
>> your life is on the line.
>> yes, my life is on the line. i think the truth will come out in the end and hopefully, hopefully those 12 people will know the true story .
>> his fiancee kat, told us before the verdict she will stick by him no matter what.
>> i believe in him.
>> have you thought about your wedding and where it will be, when it will happen?
>> i actually already bought my dress.
>> kat's future and so many others would be determined by what the jury decided. for catherine 's family, the waiting was the hardest part.
>> i truthfully did not know what it was going to be, no matter which way you went with it, it was emotional. there's no winners.
>> almost five years after catherine novak 's murder, so many secrets, lies and betrayals had been revealed. so many questions raised. would the jury believe paul 's ex-lover and his ex-partner? was paul a ruthless killer or had he been set up? it took the jury two full days of deliberations. on the third day they had made a decision. the verdict was in.
>> how do you find in the case of the people of the state of york versus paul novak as to count one, murder in the first degree.
>> guilty. convicted of first degree murder. paul showed only a slight head shake as he was convicted of all charges against him. including insurance fraud , grand larceny and arson.
>> how are you feeling right now?
>> very good.
>> paul now faces life in prison . he'll be sentenced later this year. his lawyer said he will appeal. michelle who knew about the murder plan from the beginning walked away a free woman .
>> a lot of people will be angry and think this woman knew about a murder that was going to happen and didn't do anything.
>> i can think of hundreds of people. thousands of people that know about a crime and don't come forward and say a word.
>> it doesn't make it okay.
>> is it a perfect world ? no. will she get hers? yes. when she dies.
>> the future for the children will be decided by the people who love them most. paul and catherine 's families.
>> we will work to get to those kids what catherine wanted for them.
>> up in narrowsburg, where catherine 's novak beloved red house once stood, the trees glow orange and gold. her mother still mourns the daughter she lost but remembers the life she lived.
>> what do you miss most about her?
>> her smile and her hugs. she was a lot of fun. catherine . she enjoyed life a lot.
>> that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll be back again friday at 8:00, 7:00 central. don't forget to tune in tomorrow morning for "today." i'm lester holt and for all of us at nbc