The jury in the Anthony Oddone murder trial apparently has decided that Mr. Oddone is not guilty of murder in the second degree but has reached an impasse on the lesser charge of manslaughter in the first degree, according to accounts of the deliberations aired in the courtroom Friday.
Meanwhile, Judge C. Randall Hinrichs denied alternating motions on Friday by defense attorney Sarita Kedia to dismiss two jurors for disobeying rules for deliberating juries, to ask the jury if they can deliver a partial verdict and to declare a mistrial in the case.
The jury returned to the courtroom on Monday morning, the ninth day of deliberations, to hear testimony from two prosecution witnesses read back by the court reporter. The testimony focuses on two eyewitness accounts of the struggle between Mr. Oddone, 27, of Farmingville, and Andrew Reister, an off-duty correction officer from Hampton Bays who was working part-time as a bouncer at the Southampton Publick House in August 2008. He was 40 when he died.
After hours of legal wrangling earlier in the day on Friday, during which Ms. Kedia suggested that the jury appears unable to continue deliberating “in any appropriate fashion,” the jury went back to its deliberation at 3 p.m. that day. Shortly before 6 p.m. on Friday, the jury foreman sent Judge Hinrichs a note asking to have the testimony of Southampton Publick House employee Austin Everhart read back to them. Another note asked for a read-back of the testimony of John Cato, a sailing instructor who witnessed the fight and testified that he had punched Mr. Oddone in the head in an attempt to get him to stop choking Mr. Reister. A final note, issued while the defense and prosecution attorneys were poring over the testimony to be read back, then asked to be allowed to adjourn for the weekend before the accounts were read.
The adjournment ended a tumultuous 24-hour stretch in the trial, which will now apparently stretch into a ninth day of deliberations and possibly beyond. On Thursday, a juror sent a note to Judge Hinrichs that the judge said included an inappropriate reference to where the jury’s deliberations stood and what the opinion of at least one of the jurors was. The judge denied a subsequent request by Ms. Kedia to have that juror dismissed and to declare a mistrial. In her argument Ms. Kedia said that “the secrecy of deliberations is the cornerstone of modern courtroom” procedure, and that it had been violated. She also made mention that the note indicated at least one of the jurors was in agreement with an inference about the facts of the case that she had made during her closing summation.
The judge then brought the jury back into the courtroom shortly after 5 p.m. on Thursday, read them the state laws regarding deliberations and instructed them that any future notes were not to contain any information about their deliberations, opinions or possible verdicts. When he was done and the jury was sent back to the jury room, Ms. Kedia again asked for a mistrial, claiming the judge’s instructions to them had steered them toward issuing a conviction. The motion was similarly denied.
On Friday afternoon, it was revealed in court that another of the jurors—Juror No. 2—had spoken to one of the two alternates, who are not involved in the deliberations, about the fact that the panel appears deadlocked, and why. The alternate juror informed the judge of what had been communicated.
Ms. Kedia asked that Juror No. 2 be dismissed for being “grossly unqualified” to be a juror. She said that the alternate specifically indicated having been told that the jury had agreed not to convict on the murder charge, but was stuck on the manslaughter in the first degree charge. She also noted that two other jurors had been dismissed earlier for less serious violations of the judge’s instructions not to discuss the case.
The judge denied the request because of the late stage the trial is now in. The two jurors who were dismissed earlier were sent home before deliberations had begun.
“Not every misstep by a juror rises to the level that dismissal is required,” Judge Hinrichs said. “In the court’s view, at this stage, it does not warrant discharging this juror.”
Ms. Kedia said this was the second time that Juror No. 2 had been accused of misconduct since the case began. She indicated that earlier in the trial another juror had told the court that Juror No. 2 had indicated “her views about the defendant’s guilt” before the jury had begun its deliberations. Ms. Kedia then said the woman had lied and been evasive about what she had said when questioned in private by the judge.
Ms. Kedia renewed her request to have Juror No. 2 dismissed before the testimony readings commenced on Monday morning.
Amid the flurry of legal motions on Friday, which included at least three requests for a mistrial by Ms. Kedia, it was also revealed that one of the jurors had informed the court late in the day on Thursday that she could not continue deliberating and had become “extremely emotional” in the judge’s chambers.