After taking more than a month to pick two juries, attorneys wrestled over some final issues Friday before a triple-murder trial begins Monday.
One of the issues Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson decided was whether to allow a witness to testify that one of the victims was fearful of her boyfriend the day before she and two others were tortured and killed in her Central Islip house in August 2009.
Hasan Vaughan and Thomas Singletary, both 36 and from Central Islip, are charged with first-degree murder and arson in the deaths of Vaughan's girlfriend, Katrice Daniels, 31; her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28, and her boyfriend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19. Vaughan and Singletary are accused of strangling, shooting and stabbing the victims before setting the victims and the house on fire.
Each defendant will have a separate jury because both have suggested only the other one committed the crime.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said he intended to call Katrina Gilley to testify that the day before Katrice Daniels died, she "appeared nervous, she appeared upset, she appeared scared."
Biancavilla said that was because Mykier Daniels and Calixto had stolen property from Vaughan and Katrice Daniels was anxious about how he was going to react.
"It goes to the motive of Vaughan to commit homicide," Biancavilla said. "It also shows the victim's feelings of strife."
But Vaughan's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, said such testimony was hearsay, usually permissible only in domestic abuse cases where a spouse tells someone to suspect the defendant if something happens.
Keahon said Katrice Daniels didn't say anything like that, and actually introduced Gilley to Vaughan. But Gilley said Daniels described him as the twin brother of her ex-boyfriend, who was shot in the head a block away.
"It's just totally made-up nonsense," Keahon said, noting that Vaughan doesn't have any brother, let alone a dead twin. "She [Gilley] is not a reliable witness."
Hudson said that although such hearsay is usually used in domestic violence cases, the principle "can be applied elsewhere." He ruled that Gilley can testify, and Keahon can attack her reliability during cross-examination.
Hudson allowed Biancavilla to show Vaughan used a false name and wouldn't say how he was injured when he showed up at a Brooklyn hospital after the deaths with much of his body covered in burns.
However, Hudson reversed an earlier ruling and prohibited Biancavilla from using a statement police say Vaughan made a few weeks earlier after an unrelated arrest.
Police say Vaughan told them then he was disappointed in the performance of his BMW, "because I purchased it to outrun police."