Juror in Cop Sex Attack Case Socially Linked to DA
By Kiratiana Freelon on March 27, 2012 1:34pm |
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A lawyer who was part of the jury that convicted disgraced cop Michael Pena of a gunpoint sexual assault in Inwood was allowed to remain on the feuding panel, which was still contemplating rape and other charges, despite revealing Tuesday that he is socially linked to the Manhattan District Attorney.
Juror No. 2, identified as Lloyd Constantine, a former adviser to Gov. Eliot Spitzer, said that he did not think his familiarity with DA Cyrus Vance Jr. would have impacted his ability to serve on the jury judging the fate of Michael Pena, 27.
Neither defense attorneys nor prosecutors asked for a mistrial once the information came to light and the judge allowed the case to proceed.
Pena was convicted Tuesday of three counts of predatory sexual assault, the top charge he was facing for the attack last August, but the jury was deadlocked on the rape charge. They were ordered to continue deliberating on Wednesday morning.
According to campaign finance records, Constantine contributed $5,000 to both Vance and his former law partner, Richard Aborn, who lost to Vance by a significant margin in the 2009 campaign for DA.
He also told the judge he's played tennis with Vance and has been acquainted with him at other events.
The relationship between Constantine and Vance's election opponent was revealed to the judge Tuesday morning by one of the other jurors, who complained the relationship was hurting the prosecution's case.
While Vance was present in the courtroom for portions of the weeklong trial, he and his staff were not aware that Constantine was a juror until the issue was raised Tuesday, a spokesperson said.
Vance typically sits at the rear of the courtoom when he observes a case and Constantine has been seated toward the very front of the room.
During the jury selection process known as voir dire, Constantine did not mention the relationship because he had "taken my own subjective test [whether] this would in any way shape my opinion or effect me," he told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers Tuesday.
Constantine also told Carruthers at a bench conference, "I was certainly aware I knew Mr. Vance" when he was questioned as a potential juror.
The jury was deadlocked Tuesday afternoon on the rape charges and their deliberations had gotten "very contentious," according to Pena's attorney Ephraim Savitt, describing a note from the panel earlier Tuesday.
Hours later, the judge accepted the jury's partial verdict of guilty on several counts of predatory sexual assault and criminal sex act, the former carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
In a later note to Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers, the jury of eight men and four women indicated how their discussions were deteriorating, Savitt said.
"There's anger going on, a lot of ad hominem attacks," Savitt said of the jury's most recent note. "It seems this is becoming a remake of '12 Angry Men.'"
Prosecutor Evan Krutoy, who was previously unaware that Constantine knew Vance, notified Carruthers of the juror's social relationship with DA.
Constantine resigned as a Spitzer adviser after the former governor's notorious sex scandal.
But Savitt said there is no evidence that Constantine's deliberation had been biased by his connection to Vance and declined to ask for a mistrial.