Jury snafu ends Trenton murder trial without verdict

Anthony Concepcion

Anthony Concepcion

State prisoner Anthony L. Concepcion remains in the custody of New Jersey Department of Corrections after his murder trial ended last week without resolution.

Concepcion, 26, of Trenton, is a self-confessed gunman serving a five-year prison sentence at South Woods State Prison while fighting Mercer County prosecutors in another case accusing him of shooting and killing 39-year-old Patrick Walker in 2014.

Concepcion had his day in court earlier this month, but his legal proceeding ended in a mistrial last Thursday due to a snafu involving the jury’s failure to follow instructions. 

“The issue was related to deliberations being conducted by jurors outside of the presence of the entire jury,” Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Casey DeBlasio said Tuesday in an email explaining why Judge Darlene Pereksta granted the defense’s motion for a mistrial.

In any trial by jury, a judge always gives strict instructions to each juror, including guidance that the jury shall not deliberate until and unless all 12 jury members are present in the jury room. The jury violated that instruction in Concepcion’s murder trial, prompting public defender Jessica Lyons to move for a mistrial with the state consenting to the motion, DeBlasio confirmed.

“The next court date is scheduled for Sept. 17,” DeBlasio said, “and the state is prepared to retry the case. It will be assigned to another assistant prosecutor as Michelle Gasparian is leaving the office for another job opportunity.”

Gasparian, who has served as a distinguished Mercer County prosecutor for the last 20 years, winning a huge murder conviction last year in the 2011 body-in-the-trunk execution case against killer Danuweli Keller, was prosecuting Concepcion with her trademark methodical approach before his trial ended on a technicality last week.

The prosecutor’s office did not elaborate on Gasparian’s future job opportunity, but sources say she will be joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She was previously cross-designated to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and worked with federal prosecutors in the past to win convictions against Bloods street gang members involved in a massive drug ring in Trenton.

Concepcion is accused of shooting and killing Patrick Walker outside of Trenton’s La Guira Bar on Dec. 13, 2014. Police arrested Concepcion Jan. 6, 2015, in connection with the homicide. An indictment eventually charged him with first-degree murder, second-degree possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes, and second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun.

Patrick Walker

Patrick Walker

The defendant was known to be armed and dangerous. Concepcion illegally possessed a handgun in Trenton on Sept. 30, 2014, and promptly got arrested for the offense. He posted $50,000 cash bail on Oct. 22, 2014, buying his way out of jail only to get re-arrested several weeks later on murder charges, according to court records.

Concepcion maintains his presumption of innocence in the murder case but admits to being in unlawful possession of a handgun in the September 2014 weapons case. A judge sentenced him to five years of state incarceration last year. He is currently scheduled to be released from DOC custody March 14, 2019, and faces 30 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

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