Citing the judge's questioning of a prospective alternate juror, the attorney for Jeffrey Conroy Monday made an unsuccessful last-minute bid to have a mistrial declared in Conroy's murder trial in Riverhead.
It was one of several disputes Monday between attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge and State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle, who also sparred over a piece of cloth that Keahon deemed objectionable.
Opening arguments are expected to begin Wednesday in the trial of Conroy, 19, of Medford, who is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, both as hate crimes, in the Nov. 8, 2008, killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue.
After a pool of prospective jurors was sent home Monday following about four hours of questioning by Doyle, Keahon told Doyle the judge had erred by questioning a woman with other prospective jurors present after she said her son had gone to school with Conroy. The woman said she and her son had discussed Conroy after he was charged in connection with Lucero's death. Keahon said the questioning was "totally inappropriate" because it might have influenced other possible jurors. Doyle refused to declare a mistrial or disband the jury.
A panel of seven men and five women was seated Friday. Both Keahon and Assistant District Attorney Megan O'Donnell said they believe four alternate jurors will be picked Tuesday.
Earlier Monday, Keahon demanded that a black cloth hanging from the defense table he shares with Conroy be removed for the trial. The cloth shields jurors' view of a defendant's legs when he or she is wearing leg shackles.
Noting Conroy is not shackled, Keahon twice referred to the cloth as a "shroud" that might influence jurors. "I think it looks . . . like we are participating in a ceremonial burial," Keahon said.
Doyle agreed to have the cloth removed, but said it could not be done immediately because the cloth is fastened by screws.
"I can bring in the Phillips head screwdriver and remove it myself," Keahon said.
Doyle said the cloth would be removed Monday night.