Schenectady County

Mistrial ordered in Schenectady murder case after juror again a no-show

A tearful juror was hauled into court Wednesday morning via sheriff’s escort after her absence from
A local TV reporter broadcasts from outside the Schenectady County Courthouse in this 2010 photo.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
A local TV reporter broadcasts from outside the Schenectady County Courthouse in this 2010 photo.

A tearful juror was hauled into court Wednesday morning after her absence from deliberations forced a mistrial in a more-than-two-week-long murder trial.

Judge Richard Giardino ordered the juror, identified only as Juror No. 1, to be found and brought in after she failed to show up Tuesday and then again failed to appear in court Wednesday morning.

Her absence forced the mistrial and prompted calls from the prosecutor in the murder case, Peter Willis, for Giardino to start contempt proceedings against the juror. Those proceedings could result in the juror being jailed if she is found to have willfully disobeyed the court’s order to show up as a juror.

Family members of murder victim Jose “Mickey” Torres were incredulous afterward. They also called for the juror to be jailed.

After the woman was located and brought in by a sheriff’s sergeant, Giardino heard the woman’s latest account on why she wasn’t in court. On Tuesday, she told court officials she couldn’t come in because she was sick. Her absence Wednesday, she said in court, was because her boyfriend had been injured late Tuesday afternoon.

Giardino did not appear convinced, though, asking if her boyfriend’s injuries were documented.

“I’m going to review what options I have in light of your noncompliance with the court’s directive,” Giardino told the juror, who by then was wiping her eyes with tissues. “I will notify you in writing whether you will have to return to court and if there are going to be sanctions imposed.”

The proceedings came at the end of an extraordinary morning where more than two weeks of trial had to be thrown out because one juror failed to show up. It was the first time anyone in court could remember a juror failing to show up for deliberations.

The 12 jurors began deliberating Monday afternoon and appeared to be deeply involved in talks. At one point, they requested part of a street surveillance video to be replayed in court, as well as for still pictures to be shown on the courtroom screen.

Deliberations broke Monday with a request from the jury for testimony to be read back. That was supposed to happen the next morning.

But on Tuesday morning, Juror No. 1 failed to show. She also failed to contact the court, as jurors are routinely told to do in case of an emergency.

It wasn’t until mid-morning that court officials got through to her. She relayed she was sick, but said she’d be in at 1 p.m. She failed to show up, however, and the proceedings were delayed until Wednesday morning. She told court officials she would show up then but never did.

Giardino finally ordered a sheriff’s sergeant to go to her residence. An initial attempt to find her failed. No one answered her door, and her vehicle could not be found in the parking lot. A short time later, after the jury had already been discharged, the woman was located and hauled into court.

The defendant in the murder trial was Emmanuel Martinez, 29, of Schenectady. He faces one count each of second-degree murder and attempted murder, as well as other charges. If convicted, he could get as much as 50 years to life in prison.

Martinez will remain in custody pending the expected retrial.

Martinez is accused of killing Torres and wounding Torres’ brother, Luis Gomez, on Aug. 30, 2013, the Friday night leading into Labor Day weekend. The shooting happened at Torres’ Becker Street residence.

Prosecutor Willis alleged Martinez was embarrassed by Torres earlier that day as Torres punched Martinez repeatedly on the street. Martinez then went home, got a gun, went to Torres’ residence later in the evening and opened fire, Willis said.

Defense attorney Cheryl Coleman told the jury Monday the case was full of reasonable doubt and witnesses to the shooting were unreliable.

Both Coleman and Willis gave their reactions afterward as simple frustration.

“Wondering what would have been,” Coleman said as she left. “It just shows, I guess, all the things that can go wrong.”

Willis called it unfortunate.

Attorneys are expected to meet at the end of next week to discuss when the retrial will proceed.

Family members of Torres and Gomez have attended throughout the trial. They believe the juror should be punished. Hector Torres, brother of both Jose Torres and Gomez, called it “torture” to have to sit through the case again.

“I just think it’s kind of sad how we went through the torture for the last 21⁄2 weeks to sit here and get a mistrial because one of the jurors didn’t want to show up,” Torres said. “She should go to jail. She should be punished for this. She took an oath.”

Other family members had similar sentiments.

In court, Giardino thanked the 11 remaining jurors for their service.

“I can tell you how thankful the parties and I are that you did your duty,” Giardino said. “I apologize.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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