The sentencing of Tyler Flach, convicted in November of second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Khaseen Morris, was postponed until at least Feb. 28 to give prosecutors and Flach’s lawyers time to make arguments on a defense motion to set aside the conviction.
The defense motion, filed early Monday, argues that Flach’s murder conviction should be vacated because Nassau County prosecutors misled the jury about the number of times Flach stabbed the 16-year-old Morris during an after-school brawl outside an Oceanside strip mall.
“We would prefer a retrial of the case because it was so poisonous, what happened in this trial,” said new Flach attorney Jonathan Rosenberg said after a brief appearance before acting Supreme Court Justice Howard Sturim.
Rosenberg’s Brooklyn firm was hired to represent Flach, 22, during sentencing and appeals after the Lido Beach resident was convicted on Nov. 1.
WHAT TO KNOW
- The sentencing of Tyler Flach, convicted in November of second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Khaseen Morris, was postponed until at least Feb. 28.
- State Supreme Court Justice Howard Sturim delayed the sentencing until lawyers could present arguments over a defense motion to set aside the murder conviction.
- The defense motion says prosecutors misled the jury about the number of times Flach stabbed the 16-year-old Morris during an after-school brawl outside an Oceanside strip mall.
Rosenberg also argued in court papers that prosecutors failed to request — and turn over to the defense — radio recordings made by the ambulance workers who treated Morris after he was stabbed. Those recordings were later destroyed three years before Flach went to trial according to the filing, which also said that Sturim and prosecutors failed to inquire why the jury wished to meet with the judge privately prior to reaching its verdict. The judge declined to meet with jurors, saying it was inappropriate.
Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly, declined to comment on Monday. Flach did not appear while Flach's mother, Jeanne McGuire, of Lido Beach, was in court Monday but declined to comment. Morris’ family did not attend the court appearance and could not be reached for comment.
Sturim acknowledged on Monday that the defense motion had been submitted and gave the district attorney's office until Feb. 13 to respond. After that, the defense has until Feb. 21 to make additional arguments. Sturim will rule on the request to vacate the conviction on Feb. 28 and could sentence Flach to jail on that day.
Prosecutors and Edward Sapone, Flach’s trial attorney, had clashed in court about the number of times Flach stabbed Morris — a detail the defense told jurors mattered because it related to the question of intent. Police said publicly after Morris' slaying that he had suffered a single stab wound to his chest. But after the trial began more than three years later, Nassau prosecutor Daryl Levy alleged in his opening statement that Flach had stabbed Morris three times.
Trial testimony showed Morris had five lacerations to his torso area, including the fatal stab wound, and a former Nassau deputy medical examiner testified that four of the lacerations were caused by attempts to save his life. A police officer and two EMTs also testified that they saw just one wound on Morris’ torso.
"They knew it was untrue, but they said it at both the opening and in their closing," Rosenberg said following Monday's proceeding in Mineola. "And that went to intent. They tried to show there was a murderous intent. This was not a case for murder. And it was a very politicized prosecution. So, we have a lot to work with."
Rosenberg’s motion asked Sturim to dismiss and vacate the second-degree murder charge or to reduce the top count in the indictment from a murder charge to manslaughter.
Prosecutors Ania Pulaski and Levy contended during Flach’s trial that the defendant had intentionally stabbed Morris during the brawl on Sept. 16, 2019. Sapone told jurors that the fatal stabbing was a tragic accident.
He said his client threw a flurry of punches while holding a knife in his hand before one punch “went awry.” The knife pierced Morris’ heart during what Sapone described as “reckless behavior” on Flach’s part.
Sapone also argued that Flach had thrown punches with the knife in his hand during other parts of the fight, but only inflicted the single stab wound to Morris in the 51-second melee.
Testimony in the trial showed the brawl was sparked by friction with the jealous ex-boyfriend of a girl whom Morris walked home from a party. That teenager was among Flach’s group of friends from Long Beach who squared off with Morris and a group of his friends from Freeport.
Police also arrested seven of Flach's friends on assault charges in the aftermath of the fight, which also left Morris' friend, Aaron Singh, then 17, with a broken arm.