DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A judge is considering a mistrial in the case of the driver who fatally struck a woman on a Fort Greene sidewalk after a juror alerted the court to possible racial bias from a member of the jury toward the accused killer.
Marlon Sewell is on trial for second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus, who was killed in December 2015 after Sewell veered his Chevy Suburban onto a Fulton Street sidewalk as she was holiday shopping with her boyfriend.
After more than week of testimony, the jury began deliberating a verdict Tuesday. But as of Wednesday evening, the case was in limbo as Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Vincent Del Giudice said he will consider a mistrial after a juror expressed concern about a comment she overheard from a fellow juror about Sewell, who is black.
In a note sent to the court from the deliberation room Wednesday afternoon, the juror, who is black, said she overheard another juror, also black and female, say at the start of the trial, “I am not sending a black man to jail. Are you crazy?”
Later during questioning by the judge, the juror confirmed she made the comment, but said the other juror had overheard her incorrectly. She said she wouldn’t send a black man to jail “without evidence,” adding, “I thought I was talking to myself.”
Six out of 12 of the jurors told the judge they were aware of the woman's comment. Two had heard it themselves, though without the "without evidence" portion, they said. The juror who reported it said she told the court “because I felt like this is going to cause a major problem.”
In response, Sewell’s attorney Damien Brown told Del Giudice, “I have no other choice than to ask for a mistrial.”
The prosecution opposed the idea, telling Del Giudice it would be "premature" to call a mistrial.
The judge said he will consider the matter before court resumes again Thursday morning.
Sewell faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the manslaughter charge.