Is jury hung in Trenton man’s gang-related murder trial?
TRENTON >> “Looking for a hung jury? Call Mark Fury” is probably not a catchphrase the defense attorney would use to attract clients.
But it has been Fury’s propensity in gang-related cases in Mercer County that look unwinnable on their face.
It was that way in the infamous first trial of Latin Kings gang leader Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete, who was finally convicted this year after a fourth trial. (Fury was no longer Negrete’s defense attorney at that point.)
And it could go that direction again in the murder trial of Isiah Greene, who is accused of gunning down Bloods gang member Quaadir “Ace Gurley” in the courtyard of the Donnelly Homes housing complex in the early-morning hours of July 21, 2013.
Gurley, a notorious gang member and drug crew leader, was hit eight times and later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
Jurors in the Greene trial deliberated for a second full day Wednesday without arriving at a verdict. They have deliberated close to 12 hours over a span of three days, starting last week.
A deadline of Friday has been set for a verdict as Judge Robert Billmeier said jurors informed him it would be a “hardship” on them if the case continues past this week and many would be unavailable to continue deliberating.
If the panel cannot decide the case by then, the judge would declare a mistrial, and it would be up to Assistant Prosecutor James Scott to decide whether to retry the case. If the “Boom Bat” case is any indication, prosecutors would retry Greene.
Either way, Fury isn’t holding his breath.
“I never want to prejudge what a jury might do,” he said. “But in my mind, there are grounds for reasonable doubt.”
What Fury thinks of the case doesn’t matter. But what does matters is how he puts on a case.
And in the “Boom Bat” case, earned a stalemate when former Latin King gang members were practically lining up to testify against their former leader in hopes of a reduced sentence.
In Greene’s case, bloods spots link him to the murder scene. Prosecutors believe he shot himself while shooting Gurley. The math on the match that it was Greene’s DNA is astronomical, a scientist testified.
But so far the evidence has not been enough to convince this jury to return a verdict one way or another.
“You flatter me,” Fury said. “I’m not gonna say it’s something that I do. I wanna say the state didn’t make its case. I wouldn’t be so bold as to say it’s me. The process has to run its course. I’ve had plenty of cases that are straight guilty and plenty of cases that are straight not guilty. The hung juries are rare.”
Greene accounted for investigators finding his blood at the housing complex by saying he had been struck by a wayward bullet, possibly one that had ricocheted off buildings when the gunman opened fire on Gurley.
Greene said he had been the housing complex to convince a friend to take him and some friends to a nightclub in Philadelphia after they had been drinking at an all-white affair on Highland Avenue. He said they didn’t want to drive to Philly for fear of getting caught by the cops, but they still drove over to the housing complex.
One legal observer said DNA evidence is hit or miss with juries, especially when considering the element of human error in deciphering and analyzing results.
“There’s no such thing as conclusive DNA evidence,” said Jack Furlong, a veteran criminal defense attorney who is not connected to Greene’s case. “What is largely understood or misunderstood is that the science of DNA is compelling, but the human application of the science and the testing is a whole different kettle of fish.”
Furlong said human error when it comes to DNA results happens “way more frequently than people realize.” That’s part of the reason DNA cases like Greene’s are not slam dunks for prosecutors.
“Mark Fury is a very effective advocate, and he is a very likable,” Furlong said. “He is living proof that if you have the right skillset, you can persuade at least one juror. On any given day, you can get a guilty verdict or on any given day you can get a not guilty verdict. I’ve seen utterly incompetent prosecutors and utterly incompetent defense lawyers win in spite of themselves. The biggest problem I have with what I do is the level of chance is much higher than people assume.”
Furlong said a courtroom is similar to a roulette table at a casino.
“With a casino, you know your odds are just short of 50-50 because half the numbers are red or black and there are a couple that are green,” he said. “Criminal trials are similar to that. There is a house edge, and in this case, by a house edge I mean a state’s edge. Defendants are overwhelmingly presumed guilty. The lawyer who can extract a hung jury is certainly worth his weight.”