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What you need to know for 01/19/2017

Schenectady murder trial imperiled as juror becomes ill

Schenectady murder trial imperiled as juror becomes ill

A more than two-week-long murder trial was imperiled Tuesday as a juror deliberating the case missed

A more than two-week-long murder trial was imperiled Tuesday as a juror deliberating the case missed the day, telling court officials she was sick.

The situation resulted in defense attorney Cheryl Coleman moving for a mistrial. It’s a motion that is expected to be considered again this morning, depending on the juror’s status.

The delay came as deliberations in the murder trial of Emmanuel Martinez had already begun.

But the one remaining alternate was excused Monday as deliberations began.

Much of the discussions regarding the juror took place behind closed doors Tuesday. The remaining 11 members were told late-morning that the missing juror was having trouble getting into court. They were then excused until 1 p.m.

At 1 p.m., Judge Richard Giardino indicated in court, outside the presence of the 11 jurors, that the juror told court officials by phone she was “really sick.”

The judge, attorneys, Martinez and security went into chambers to contact the juror directly.

When they came out, the judge indicated they would wait until 9 a.m. this morning.

Giardino then brought the 11 jurors in and apologized on behalf of the attorneys and the court.

“I ask that you not be affected by the delay. It’s no one’s fault the situation we’re in,” Giardino told them. “Again, I apologize for the delay and ask that you not get frustrated.”

The case, he said, is too important for all involved.

The trial started with a total of three alternates. By the time deliberations began, two alternates had already been used, substituted in for various reasons. That left the one remaining alternate who was discharged Monday.

Martinez, 29, of Schenectady, is standing trial on one count each of second-degree murder and attempted murder, as well as other charges. He faces up to 50 years to life in prison if convicted of killing one man and wounding another.

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

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

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

Laurie Shanks, Albany Law School professor emeritus, said Tuesday that if the juror appears in court this morning, deliberations could be saved. The judge can give special instructions.

Without the juror, though, Shanks said there would be no choice on what happens next.

“Unless this juror can resume deliberations with his or her fellow jurors, then there is going to be a mistrial,” Shanks said. Shanks is not involved in the case.

“That’s too bad. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming and stressful for everyone,” she added.

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