There was a court hearing in Brooklyn on Wednesday to determine if the conviction of former officer Peter Liang for killing an unarmed Brooklyn man should be tossed out. The defense is alleging one of the jurors was biased. Criminal Justice reporter Dean Meminger has the story.
Juror Michael Vargas was on the hot seat Wednesday. Former NYPD officer Peter Liang's defense lawyers said Vargas is a cop hater who snuck on the jury that found Liang guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Akai Gurley.
"A defendant is entitled to 12 impartial jurors, not 11," said Liang's attorney, Paul Shechtman. "I think we showed today that Mr. Vargas is not an impartial juror, that he's got a strong anti-cop bias."
Liang's lawyer grilled him about his Facebook comments and reposting of stories about alleged police misconduct around the country. The postings occurred before Gurley was killed.
One of Vargas's Facebook reposts said, "Every time the police kill an innocent unarmed person, they bring this country one step closer to a revolution,"
That doesn't sit well with Liang's defense team.
"I don't think a juror has to disclose what's on his Facebook page," Shechtman said. "But what a juror has to disclose is whether he is bias."
Another issue: Vargas did not tell Judge Danny Chun during jury selection that his father was convicted of manslaughter for shooting a friend.
Vargas told the court Wednesday that when he was asked if a relative or anyone close to him was charged with a crime, he didn't think about his father, because he didn't know him or live with him growing up.
Liang's lawyers found that hard to believe because the 62-year-old juror did mention his dad during jury selection for another case and wasn't selected.
"Sad to say, I think we showed he's not an honest man," Shechtman said.
The prosecution, which does not want the conviction tossed, is set to question the juror Thursday afternoon.
Because of the ongoing hearing with Vargas, the sentencing of Peter Liang has been rescheduled for next week.
But if the judge overturns the conviction, there will be no sentencing. Instead, Liang would face a new set of jurors, and another trial.
Liang faces up to 15 years behind bars, but Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has recommended probation and community service instead of prison time.