Paul Cortez, Convicted of Killing Upper East Side Dancer Catherine Woods, Wants New Trial

By DNAinfo Staff on November 30, 2009 7:43am  | Updated on November 30, 2009 7:35am

Catherine Woods was a trained dancer from Ohio who came to the city to make it on Broadway and ended up a stripper.
Catherine Woods was a trained dancer from Ohio who came to the city to make it on Broadway and ended up a stripper.
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MANHATTAN — The yoga instructor convicted of murdering a stripper inside her Upper East Side apartment four years ago wants a new trial.

Paul Cortez, who was convicted of cutting the throat of Catherine Woods, a 21-year-old dancer-turned-stripper, is appealing his conviction, saying his former defense team mishandled forensic evidence used to convict him, according to the New York Post.

Cortez claims a bloody handprint found near Woods' body at the scene of the Nov. 27, 2005 crime does not incriminate him. The new case will likely be argued in the spring, Cortez' new lawyer, Jeffery Lichtman, told the Post.

The paper said also that Cortez blamed Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Berkman for allowing "violent and misogynistic" excerpts from his diary to be admitted as evidence.

During the original trial, Cortez's lawyers tried to pin the crime on Woods' live-in boyfriend, David Haughn. The jury, in the end, convicted Cortez based on the print evidence and cell phone records that showed Cortez had called Woods repeatedly throughout the day she was murdered. The records also placed him near the murder scene. The calls reportedly stopped after the murder.

Cortez has maintained his innocence.

On a Web site set up to defend Cortez, there's an appeal for donations to help pay for a new trial.

"Unfortunately, even with a top-notch like Jeffrey Licthman spearheading the case, Paul still needs help to afford the necessary forensic analysis and DNA testing," read one post on the site.

It also says that Lichtman is taking on the case at reduced rates, but, even so, it says the costs could reach the "six figure range."

The site also contains a letter from Cortez, dated from 2007, in which he protests his innocence.

"I did not kill Catherine Woods," he wrote. "I only loved her and cared for her, and would do anything to help her."