The murder trial for the ex-NYPD officer and his then-fiancee accused of killing the cop's 8-year-old son, Thomas Valva, is scheduled to begin Wednesday with jury selection, more than 2 1/2 years after Suffolk prosecutors said the boy lived and died "in a house of horrors."
What happened to Thomas Valva?
Thomas Valva died on Jan. 17, 2020 after the boy was allegedly forced by his father, Michael Valva, and Angela Pollina, to sleep in an unheated garage at their Center Moriches home in 19-degree weather. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Thomas Valva's death was caused by hypothermia.
Who has been charged in his death?
Valva, 43, and Pollina, 45, have each been charged with second-degree murder and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges. They have been held in jail without bail since their arrests.
When will the trial take place?
The start of the trial was delayed several times due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice William Condon, who is presiding over the trial, has estimated it will take about three months. Jury selection alone could take one month, the judge said.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys are scheduled to begin selecting a jury on Sept. 7; Pollina's jury selection is expected to follow right after. The prosecution is expected to present at least 36 witnesses, a prosecutor told the judge.
Prosecutors are expected to present audio and video evidence from a security system inside the Valva home, including video footage that prosecutors have said shows Thomas lying on the concrete floor of the garage, visibly shivering and without a blanket.
The prosecution's case was previewed, in part, during a week of pretrial hearings in May 2021 to determine whether audio, video and other key evidence would be admissible at the trial. The judge ruled in the prosecution's favor.
Why are two juries being selected?
The judge ruled earlier that both defendants will be on trial at the same time, but two separate juries will decide their guilt or innocence. The setup is rare, according to legal experts, but not unprecedented.
Because both defendants are placing blame on the other for Thomas' death, the case could not be decided by a single jury, the judge ruled previously.
Valva defense attorney Anthony LaPinta argued that the video evidence, which contains the defendants discussing their "family dynamic," would make it impossible for two separate juries at the same trial to consider the culpability of only one defendant.
Will Thomas' mother attend the trial?
Thomas' mother Justyna Zubko-Valva, who had been a vocal presence at the initial court proceedings, stopped coming to court last year. She declined to comment through her civil attorney, Jon Norinsberg, who has filed a $200 million federal lawsuit against Suffolk County and several county Child Protective Services employees for a series of alleged failures before his death. The civil lawsuit is in the discovery phase. It's unclear whether she'll attend the trial.
Will the defendants testify?
Matthew Tuohy, the defense attorney for Pollina, said his client will testify in her own defense.
Attorneys for Valva would not say whether he would take the stand.
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