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What you need to know for 10/17/2017

Judge to decide fate of Nelligan

Judge to decide fate of Nelligan

The trial of the city grandmother accused of killing her 8-year-old grandson is set to start Monday
Judge to decide fate of Nelligan
Gloria Nelligan takes paperwork from Public Defender Mark Caruso during her arraignment on charges of second-degree murder in Schenectady County Court in April.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

The trial of the city grandmother accused of killing her 8-year-old grandson is set to start Monday without a jury.

Gloria Nelligan informed the judge presiding over the case on Wednesday that she wanted the murder case against her heard and decided by the judge alone.

The case is now expected to be tried before Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago starting Monday morning, with opening statements expected that same day.

Nelligan, 43, is facing one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, accused of causing the Feb. 23 death of her grandson, Sha’hiim Nelligan. The boy was in her care.

Prosecutors accused Nelligan of essentially beating the boy to death, causing swelling so severe that his heart stopped because of lack of blood.

Nelligan contends that the boy hit his head on the bathtub on the morning he died, one of several incidents of the boy acing out and hurting himself in the days leading to his death.

In court Wednesday, Drago asked Nelligan a series of questions designed to make sure she knew the right she was giving up. The judge pointed out that Nelligan has the “absolute right” to a trial in front of 12 jurors.

Drago also asked several questions apparently aimed at determining whether Nelligan was competent to make such a decision. She asked Nelligan about her schooling and employment history.

Nelligan said the longest she has held a job was three years as a waitress. She also worked several other jobs, including in construction and as a home health aide.

She completed high school and some college. She told the judge that she attended Schenectady County Community College to pursue studies in criminal justice. Nelligan added that she went to school to avoid “an abusive relationship.”

She ultimately ended up dropping out six months before she would have graduated, Nelligan said.

Drago also asked Nelligan about her criminal history. Nelligan said she had a conviction in 1989. She received six months in jail on a weapons-related case.

Nelligan said she understood the right she was giving up by choosing a bench trial. The judge also asked Nelligan to explain in her own words why she was giving up her right to a jury. Nelligan responded by saying that her attorney, Schenectady County Public Defender Mark Caruso, “advised me that was the best way for this case.”

Drago asked if she wanted to follow his advice. Nelligan responded that she did.

Caruso declined to comment afterward on why he recommended a bench trial.

Though she chose a bench trial Wednesday, attorneys also noted that she still has the right to change her mind until the start of the trial.

She remains in custody.

Non-jury trials are rare but not unheard of in Schenectady County.

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