BROOKLYN SUPREME COURT — The sentencing for Peter Liang was postponed and rescheduled for April 19 on the same day defense attorneys grilled a juror in an 11th-hour bid to overturn the ex-NYPD officer's controversial manslaughter conviction.
Liang's laywer, Paul Shectman, had asked Judge Danny Chun to grant a mistrial in advance of his client's sentencing, which had been scheduled for Thursday, because a juror omitted facts about his father's past during the jury selection process. That sentencing has been pushed back to April 19 due to Wednesday's mistrial hearing.
Michael Vargas, 62, was called to the stand by Shechtman, who demanded to know why he did not mention that his dad had served prison time for accidentally killing someone during the jury selection process.
But Vargas told defense attorneys that he barely had a relationship with his father, saying, "He was not close to me. He never spanked me. He never raised me."
Vargas added that he was so estranged from his dad that he didn't even know for certain that he'd served time in prison, instead hearing it as a rumor.
But defense attorneys pointed to a Facebook picture posted by Vargas in January 2016 of the juror as a child with his father.
This is the third mistrial bid for Liang’s defense team. They moved for one before jury deliberations by claiming that prosecutor Joseph Alexis misled jurors when he said that the shooting was not an accident.
Last month, they pushed for a mistrial on the grounds that Liang hadn't received proper CPR training.
Chun denied both requests.
Liang, 28, was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting unarmed Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn public housing stairwell in November 2014 and then not coming to his aid.
The officer faces up to 15 years in prison, but Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson — who aggressively sought an indictment in the case — requested last month that Chun spare Liang jail time, instead recommending six months of house arrest and 500 hours of community service.
"There is no evidence… that [Liang] intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley," Thompson said in a statement. "When Mr. Liang went into that building that night, he did so as part of his job and to keep the people of Brooklyn and our city safe."
Shechtman said after the hearing that he felt the defense team showed Vargas had misled the judge and lawyers during jury selection.
“I think we showed today that Mr. Vargas is not an impartial juror," Liang's lawyer said. "That he’s got a strong anti-cop bias and sad to say I think we showed he’s not an honest man.”
Cross-examination in the mistrial hearing is set to resume Thursday.