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Attorney for Gingerella’s convicted killer files motion for new trial

September 26, 2018

The attorney for the man convicted in the December 2016 shooting death of Joey Gingerella filed a motion for a new trial Tuesday, claiming Dante A. Hughes was prejudiced by a juror who admitted he looked up the definition of manslaughter during deliberations at Hughes’ trial in July.

New London Superior Court Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed scheduled arguments on the motion for Oct. 2 and postponed Hughes’ sentencing from Oct. 4 to Oct. 17. He faces up to 50 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter with a firearm and criminal possession of a firearm, if his conviction stands.

Hughes’ attorney, Walter D. Hussey, claims in the motion filed Monday that Hughes should have a new trial because he was prejudiced by a juror who disregarded Judge Barbara Bailey’s instructions not to conduct any outside investigation of the case. The male juror admitted during a post-trial inquiry in early September that he looked up the dictionary definition of manslaughter during deliberations.

Hussey contends in the motion that consulting the dictionary, rather than following the specific instruction from the judge on the charge of manslaughter, had impacted the juror’s decision making. Hussey wrote that the juror “equivocated” when asked whether he ultimately followed the court’s instructions during the deliberations.

The juror had said, “I mean, I basically did,” when Jongbloed questioned him at the post-trial proceeding, according to the motion.

The latest delay rattled Gingerella’s mother, Tammy de la Cruz, who said she has been working on a victim impact statement she intends to read at the sentencing hearing. Surrounded by family members, friends, and Victim Services Advocate Stephanie Barber prior to Tuesday’s court proceeding, de la Cruz dissolved into tears in the courthouse hallway.

“Joey’s life is over,” she said. “Why can’t this be over? I feel like the defendant has had all the rights in this courtroom.”

Hughes, 32, had testified at his trial that he had shot Gingerella, 24, when Gingerella and others stepped in to stop Hughes from beating his longtime girlfriend, Latoya Knight, in the parking lot of Ryan’s Pub on Dec. 11, 2016. Hughes claimed he shot Gingerella in self-defense but the jury rejected the claim and found him guilty of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm. The jury found him not guilty of murder.

The judge found him guilty of criminal possession of a firearm, a charge that was withheld from the jury so they would not be prejudiced with the knowledge that Hughes, previously convicted on drug and weapons charges, was a felon who could not legally own a firearm.

Hughes’ family members and Knight, the woman he was beating in the parking lot of Ryan’s Pub when Gingerella and friends intervened, also were in court Tuesday to hear the latest developments in his case. Hughes has been held in lieu of $500,000 bond at the Northern Correctional Institution since he was captured two days after the shooting as he attempted to walk across the Rainbow International Bridge in Niagara Falls into Canada.

Knight, who was charged with interfering with police for allegedly hampering the police investigation, has her case pending in the same courthouse.

Prosecutor Paul J. Narducci said he prepared a memorandum of law on the juror conduct issue that he would now modify based on Hughes’ motion for a new trial. Jongbloed agreed to give both the state and defense adequate time to prepare their arguments.

“Under the circumstances, I want to be in a position to give full attention to both sides, and the court can have this issue addressed before we move on to a new stage of the proceedings,” the judge said.

k.florin@theday.com

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