A Bay Shore man who stabbed his wife to death while her daughter screamed and tried to stop it will get a second trial after an appellate court ruled that a Suffolk judge erred during jury selection.
From the time Elden MacFarlane was arrested on his front stoop while smoking a cigarette, with blood on his clothes and the knife next to him, the former Green Beret never contested that he killed his wife, Regina Jones MacFarlane, in October 2005.
Instead, his attorney put on an insanity defense, arguing that MacFarlane was a schizophrenic, believed his wife was a "queen in hell" who had to be stopped and that he was controlled by certain colors, objects and God's voice.
But a jury, horrified by a gruesome 911 recording of the killing and the screams of the victim and her daughter, convicted MacFarlane of second-degree murder in February 2008. The girl, now 15, testified at the trial. MacFarlane was sentenced to 25 to life in prison.
Last week, the Second Department of the Appellate Division in Brooklyn ruled that state Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle compromised MacFarlane's right to an impartial jury.
The court, in a 4-0 ruling by Justice Joseph Covello, noted that one potential juror had several relatives and friends who were police officers and she doubted that she could view police testimony impartially.
"I would like to think that I can be fair, but it's hard," this potential juror said during questioning.
The appellate court ruled that Doyle should have granted defense attorney William Ferris' request to excuse her.
When he didn't, Ferris had to use up one of his challenges for potential jurors, leading to a jury that could have been biased in favor of the prosecution.
The Suffolk district attorney's office is considering whether to seek permission to reargue the case or to appeal it to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, said Michael J. Miller, chief of the office's appeals bureau.
Meanwhile, MacFarlane will return to the Suffolk County jail from the Auburn Correctional Facility, perhaps as soon as this week, to await a new trial.
"The quotation from the juror in the decision is not complete," Miller said.
He said during further questioning that the woman told the court she would be able to follow the court's instructions in considering police testimony.
That has been the standard for determining if a juror can be fair, Miller said.
Ferris declined to comment Tuesday.