A second jury will decide if a Queens man is guilty of murder after an appellate court tossed his first conviction in a 2011 deadly Freeport shooting because of juror misconduct.
Jerod Plowden, 30, had been serving 17 years to life in prison for murder and robbery following his 2013 conviction in Nassau County Court.
But last year, an appellate court found that while the guilty verdict “was not against the weight of the evidence,” a Nassau judge should have granted the St. Albans man’s motion to set aside the verdict based on jury actions.
A new jury listened to closing arguments Tuesday and Wednesday in Plowden’s second trial in Nassau County Court before starting deliberations.
The appellate court found that in the first trial, one juror “improperly shared the views of her husband,” a retired prosecutor. That court also found another juror texted her uncle, a retired police officer, and asked a question about ballistics before sharing his answer with other jurors.
Nassau prosecutors have alleged Plowden and accomplice Nolan Gaugler lured victim Moez Hassan, 23, of Queens, to an abandoned home on April 12, 2011. They said the two did so under the pretense of buying Xanax pills from the Nassau Community College student before a robbery and shooting that ended Hassan’s life.
“This was a bad plan to rob Moez and it turned into a horrible shooting and a killing,” Nassau prosecutor Jessica Cepriano told jurors last month in her opening statement.
Gaugler, now 26, of Mineola, previously pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and got a 16-year prison sentence. He still is serving his time behind bars after signing a cooperation agreement with prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence, and testified against Plowden at both trials.
Cepriano told jurors Gaugler was a drug addict who met Hassan on the NCC campus. Gaugler then called his drug dealer and began hatching a plan to rob Hassan at gunpoint with the help of Plowden — whom his drug dealer recommended for the job, the prosecutor said.
At the Freeport home, Gaugler ran away when the robbery started to go wrong, the prosecutor said. He looked back to see Hassan grabbing with both hands for the gun Plowden was holding and then heard five gunshots, she said, adding that authorities found a phone that belonged to Plowden a few feet from the victim.
Defense attorney Mitchell Barnett acknowledged Plowden’s phone was at the scene, but portrayed Gaugler during his opening statement as a heroin addict who told police a “far-fetched” story after his arrest.
“Gaugler is the one that shot this person dead, who wanted to do a drug deal, who set up the robbery,” Barnett said as the current trial kicked off.
The defense attorney continued his attack on Gaugler’s character in his closing argument Tuesday, again portraying him as a desperate, homeless drug addict who killed Hassan.
“He would do anything to save himself,” Barnett said. “… Do you think he wanted to be a Good Samaritan when he took that deal and agreed to testify?”
But Cepriano told jurors in her closing argument Wednesday that Gaugler had been consistent in his statements since his arrest and evidence corroborated his account.
“The defendant is clearly guilty. All of the evidence points to him,” she said.