Judge Declares Mistrial In L.I. Murder-For-Hire Case
MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — A sudden twist came Friday in the shocking case of a Long Island woman accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill her husband.
On the second day of testimony the judge declared a mistrial.
Jurors were dismissed from duty after the sudden end to the trial of Susan Williams, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
Defense attorney John Carman asked for the mistrial, admitting to the judge he’d mistakenly signed a document allowing the jury to hear a recording of a phone call made from jail by Susan Williams.
“Mistakes can be made, and sometimes they impair the fairness of the trial,” Carman said. “When that happens, you have to start over, so no one’s happy about it.”
Prior to the mistrial, the jury heard from Peter Williams, the defendant’s estranged husband.
Prosecutors said a surveillance camera caught Susan Williams meeting with a police officer posing as a hitman. She allegedly wanted Peter dead to end a bitter divorce.
One dismissed juror wouldn’t give her name, but she thought Peter Williams came off well.
“Believable, believable; felt sorry for him,” she said.
The jury also heard from private investigator Joseph Labella, who testified he was shocked when Susan Williams asked him about getting rid of her husband.
“She wanted her problem to disappear. She made a suggestion about blowing his car up,” Labella said.
In his opening statement, the defense attorney said Susan Williams was manipulated by the private eye, but the mistrial was declared before the defense could ask him a single question.
Jury selection for the new trial begins Monday.
Prosecutors say Susan Williams paid $500 to the undercover cop, a down payment on a $20,000 hit job.
Dan Bagnuola, director of the Office of Community Relations for the Nassau County Court System, sent the following statement to 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera:
At the beginning of the trial, the parties presented a Stipulation to the Court admitting into evidence a tape recording of a conversation between the Defendant and her daughter, and agreeing that the contents were authentic. At the conclusion of the District Attorney’s second witness, the People asked to play the tape to the Jury pursuant to the Stipulation. Mr. Carmen, Atty for defendant, objected saying that he did not stipulate the tape into evidence, he only stipulated to the authenticity of the recording if it was admitted into evidence. Based on the language in the Stipulation, the Court granted the District Attorney’s application to play the tape. The tape was then played to the Jury. After the luncheon recess, Mr. Carman moved for a mistrial based on the playing of the tape to the Jury. He indicated that over the lunch hour he realized that the draft of the Stipulation which the District Attorney presented to him, and which he agreed to, was different than the final Stipulation that the Assistant District Attorney presented to him to sign. Mr. Carman produced to the Court a copy of the draft of the Stipulation that the District Attorney had presented to him. The Court reviewed the draft of the Stipulation. The draft of the Stipulation did not contain language that the tape was being stipulated into evidence, it only stipulated that the tape would be marked for Identification purposes, and that the contents of the tape were authentic-supporting Mr. Carman’s argument about the intent of the Stipulation. Upon questioning, on the record, the Assistant District Attorney agreed that the draft of the Stipulation, which Mr. Carman had agreed to, had different language than the final Stipulation. The Assistant District Attorney admitted that Mr. Carman had not been advised of the change in the language before it was presented to him in Court to sign. Based on the fact that the District Attorney’s Office changed the language in the Stipulation after Mr. Carman had agreed to it, and that the contents of the tape could be viewed as prejudicial to the defendant, and would not have been admitted into evidence without the Stipulation, the Court, based on the Law, had no choice but to grant a mistrial. Jury selection is to begin again Monday, November 1, 2010, in Judge Carter’s courtroom.