NEW YORK (AP) — A judge on Wednesday postponed the sentencing of a former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in a public housing project stairwell while he decides whether to toss out the verdict because of juror misconduct.
The officer, Peter Liang, was convicted of manslaughter in February in the shooting of Akai Gurley. Gurley had been walking down to the lobby when Liang, who was on a routine patrol, opened a door to the stairwell and accidentally fired his weapon. The bullet ricocheted and struck Gurley.
Liang's attorneys argued last week that Juror No. 9, Michael Vargas, told lawyers during the jury selection process that no one in his family had been accused of a crime. But after the verdict, he told a newspaper that his father was sent to prison for accidentally shooting a friend to death.
Vargas was subpoenaed by Liang's attorneys to appear at a hearing on Wednesday and was grilled by lawyer Paul Shechtman. The interrogation, at times, became loud and hostile.
"You understood you took an oath to tell the truth and if any of your answers were knowingly false you could be subjected to a perjury charge?" Shechtman asked.
"I guess so," Vargas responded.
Vargas said he didn't know his father well.
Shechtman: "You don't know your father had been convicted of manslaughter?"
Vargas: "I don't know that for a fact, not even today. I do not know what happened. I was young, I was sheltered."
The hearing will continue Thursday. Liang's sentencing was postponed to next week. The prosecutor has recommended the former New York Police Department officer be sentenced to house arrest and probation.
Outside the courthouse, Shechtman said Vargas "is not an impartial juror" and that his testimony on Wednesday "showed he's not an honest man." Vargas declined to comment as he left the courthouse on Wednesday.
Liang, who was a rookie officer, was fired after the verdict.