Najawicz asks V.I. Supreme Court to stop hospital trial Ex-Schneider CFO questions racial makeup of jury
Published: October 10, 2012
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Jury selection is set to continue today in V.I. Superior Court in the retrial of three former hospital executives - although one of the men has asked the V.I. Supreme Court to prohibit his trial from proceeding until his appeal is decided.
Former Schneider Regional Medical Center executives Rodney Miller Sr., Amos Carty Jr. and Peter Najawicz are accused of working together to help each other steal money from the hospital.
It will be the second trial of the high-profile case.
The first trial - in May and June of 2011 - lasted six weeks and ended in a mistrial, with a hung jury that was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any one of the 44 charges comprising the case at that point.
In recent days, Najawicz filed papers with the V.I. Supreme Court seeking to halt the trial, and on Tuesday, he filed a motion in Superior Court that raises questions about the potential racial makeup of the jury and whether he would get a fair trial.
On Thursday, Najawicz filed a notice of appeal with the V.I. Supreme Court, which was later amended. Najawicz is appealing the trial court's denial of his motions to dismiss and his motions for judgment of acquittal.
Robert King, Najawicz's attorney, also petitioned the V.I. Supreme Court to issue an order prohibiting V.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston from proceeding with his client's retrial until Najawicz's appeal before the high court is decided.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an order requiring prosecutors to file a written response to Najawicz's petition by 3 p.m. today and allowing Dunston to respond to the petition in the same timeframe.
The order suggests the high court will be considering the matter on an expedited basis.
In the petition for the order barring Najawicz's trial from proceeding until the appeal is decided, King contends that the appeal "raises substantial issues related to double jeopardy. It raises issues concerning the propriety and premature declaration of a mistrial by the court; the absence of manifest necessity for the declaration of a mistrial; the right of the defendant to have his case determined by a particular jury; the grant of a mistrial over the objection of the defendant; the financial burden on the accused; the emotional burden on the accused and the prolonged period in which Mr. Najawicz has been stigmatized by the unresolved accusations of wrongdoing against him."
King's petition to the Supreme Court also states that he filed in V.I. Superior Court on Tuesday motions to sever the case against Najawicz and stay that case pending outcome of the appeal, although he notes that Dunston has already indicated his intent to proceed with the case.
In his renewed motion to sever Najawicz's case from the other two defendants, King argues that the jury may not be able to compartmentalize the evidence as it relates to each defendant, stating that "the issues in this case are so complex that cautionary instructions aside, the jury may vicariously impute the involvement of the other defendants to Mr. Najawicz, especially since all defendants are charged as co-conspirators."
King contends that most of the evidence the government will present during the trial is not relevant to Najawicz.
"Mr. Najawicz should not be convicted merely because the government wallpapers the courtroom with enough computer paper to convince the jury that Defendant Najawicz had some part in the alleged crimes, even if his exact role remains unclear to them," the motion states.
The motion also argues that the prejudice in this case may be magnified, "considering that Mr. Najawicz is a white male allegedly involved in a conspiracy with two black males."
The motion notes that the Virgin Islands community is predominantly black, and that in the initial trial, no white jurors were successfully empanelled.
"It is extremely unlikely that a single white juror will be empanelled on the retrial. Even if a white juror is empanelled no jury in the Virgin Islands will be willing to convict Defendants Carty and Miller, two black males, and acquit Defendant Najawicz, the sole white male allegedly involved in a financial conspiracy," King writes in the motion.
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