A Suffolk judge took the unusual step Thursday of allowing a jury struggling to reach a verdict in a murder trial to have the lawyers' closing arguments read back.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro had the court stenographer recite the summations for jurors in the trial of Barry Yorke, 20, of Copiague.
Yorke is charged with second-degree murder, accused of shooting Juan Rosario, 19, in the head in Copiague in December 2010 while trying to rob him.
Jurors have been deliberating for five days and have sent several notes requesting guidance on how to come to a conclusion. In their latest note Thursday, they asked to hear again the summations of defense attorney Daniel Russo of Westhampton Beach and Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock.
Judges almost always refuse jury requests to have summations read back, because closing arguments are not evidence or testimony in the case. But Kurtzrock urged Ambro to permit it, given the Riverhead jury's struggle.
"This is something that would assist them," he said.
Russo told Ambro it was a bad idea. "I don't think the jury should consider anything but evidence in this case," he said. "It's dangerous."
But Ambro, citing a state Court of Appeals decision from 1991 that said it is within the judge's discretion to allow it, said it made sense in this case, since jurors have sought direction on how to come to a verdict.
Before the stenographer read the transcript, Ambro reminded jurors that what they were hearing was not evidence. The process took about two hours.
In his summation, Russo argued that the case against his client is nonexistent, except for three men with criminal records who claimed Yorke told them he did it. Two of those men got lighter sentences from prosecutors in exchange for their testimony.
Kurtzrock conceded the witnesses were unpleasant, but said Yorke wasn't going to admit what he did to model citizens.
The 9-mm handgun used to kill Rosario was later sold to an undercover police officer by Yorke's stepbrother, Randy Roland. Two phones were used to lure Rosario to his death. One belonged to one of the witnesses against Yorke. The other was registered to Yorke's and Roland's mother.