NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A judge on Thursday denied a motion to toss the conviction of former NYPD police officer Peter Liang.
Liang, a 28-year-old rookie police officer, was convicted of manslaughter in the 2014 stairwell shooting death of Akai Gurley in the Pink Houses in Brooklyn. He was also dismissed from the police force.
Attorneys for Peter Liang had argued that one of the jurors should not have been on the panel.
They called for a new trial on claims that a juror – Michael Vargas, 62 – was lying when he told the court none of his relatives had been accused of a crime.
The juror recently revealed that his estranged father had served seven years in prison for manslaughter in connection to an accidental shooting, 1010 WINS Juliet Papa reported.
In a published interview following Liang’s guilty verdict, Vargas mentioned his father’s conviction.
Defense attorneys also said that in a 2014 Facebook post, Vargas said police officers are not being held accountable for violence. They argued that it suggests a broader motive for his willingness to lie to get on the jury.
Vargas later said he did not think about his father’s conviction during the time he was questioned for jury selection and that he was estranged from his father and did not consider him a close relative.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Danny Chun said he did not believe Vargas was bright enough to lie his way onto a jury before ruling that Liang’s conviction will stand.
Liang’s family said the ruling will be appealed.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed at Judge Chun’s decision to deny the motion to vacate the verdict,” said Liang family spokesman Karlin Chan. “But I thought there was sufficient evidence there where Vargas was ducking questions and he was not forthcoming with the answers.”
But Gurley’s family said the ruling was a small victory.
“They wanted it to be a mistrial. They wanted Peter Liang to not be held accountable for anything. That’s the message that the defense is trying to send. That’s the message that they thought they was going to send,” said Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen. “But now, justice – the judge made the right decision.”
Liang is scheduled to be sentenced April 19. Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson recommended that Liang not serve any prison time.
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