An appeals court has ordered a new trial for a Saratoga Springs man serving a seven-year sentence for shooting a man in the leg after a drug-fueled dispute in 2009.
The state Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, said in an order issued Wednesday that the county court made mistakes when giving information to the jury in the trial of Frederick W. Clark Jr., 49.
The lower court “deprived [Clark] of a fair trial” by erring in how it responded to jury requests to read back the victim’s testimony and the law pertaining to Clark’s charges. Specifically, Judge Jerry J. Scarano provided only part of the legal information in writing to the jury and read back part of victim Jersen Vargas’ testimony under direct questioning but not what he said under cross-examination, says the order written by Judge John C. Egan Jr.
Clark was convicted of first-degree assault, unlawful possession of marijuana and making a false statement in his written remarks to police.
Now prosecutors can put Clark on trial again or strike a plea deal with him.
“While I believe that the judge gave proper instructions, I respect the decision of the appellate court, and we will proceed with a retrial as soon as it is restored to the court’s calendar,” said Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III.
Attorney Terence Kindlon, who represented Clark in the appeal but not at trial, said Wednesday he’s not sure whether Clark will want to undergo another trial.
“I’m sure he wants this to be over with and I’m sure he wants to go home,” Kindlon said.
Clark, who has been incarcerated since his March 2011 sentencing, is likely to be granted bail next week, Kindlon said.
Clark was accused of shooting Vargas in the leg with a deer rifle in December 2009 after a night of partying that included crack cocaine.
During the party, Vargas and his girlfriend struck a deal with Clark that they could do laundry at his house and spend the night in exchange for providing Clark with drugs. But around the third load of laundry, Clark’s girlfriend decided the other couple had been there long enough, according to a recounting of events in the appellate court’s memorandum.
Clark and Vargas then got into an argument, during which Clark shot Vargas in the leg. The bullet “vaporized” the bone, a doctor testified during the trial. Vargas was wheelchair-bound for a year after the incident.
Witnesses said Clark also pointed the gun at two other people in the home.
Clark drove Vargas to Saratoga Hospital after the shooting, where Vargas initially lied and told police he was shot in Schenectady.
He was later transferred to Albany Medical Center and underwent several surgeries and the implantation of a metal rod in his thigh.