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Poll Jury On Prosecutor’s Comments

July 29, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ A prosecutor who suggested that some jurors lacked ″the guts″ to convict three reputed mobsters charged with murdering a detective has thrown the case in doubt, a judge said Wednesday.

State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Sherman said he would question the deliberating jurors to see if they saw the prosecutor’s remarks, which were prominently reported in two newspapers.

″If any juror has seen these papers and is influenced by these papers, I must grant the defendants’ motion″ for dismissal, Sherman told Assistant District Attorney Daniel Sullivan. ″You have placed this case in jeopardy because of this statement.″

Sullivan, asked Tuesday why the jury had spent seven days deliberating the case against the people accused of killing Detective Anthony Venditti, told the New York Post: ″Some of the jury members may be having a hard time finding the guts and courage to convict members of the Mafia.″

Sullivan was quoted similarly in New York Newsday.

Three reputed members of the Genovese crime family - Fredrico Giovanelli, Steve Maltese and Carmine Gualtiere - are accused of killing Venditti and wounding his partner, Detective Kathleen Burke, outside a diner in January 1986.

The officers had been tailing the three men.

The jury, in its eighth day of deliberations on Wednesday, last week sent three notes to the trial-court judge saying it was deadlocked. Sherman instructed the jurors to continue.

In court Wednesday, Sullivan conceded making the comments attributed to him. ″I was asked why the jury may be taking so long and I pointed out that the jury may be fearful. That is true,″ he told the judge.

The judge admonished Sullivan, saying, ″A statement of that type that you made through the newspapers should never have been made.″

Defense lawyers, arguing that Sullivan’s comments made it impossible for the jury to be impartial, asked for a dismissal of the charges or for an order of mistrial that would prevent the district attorney from bringing the charges again.

Though the jury has been sequestered, the lawyers said they feared the jurors may have seen a Page One headline on Sullivan’s comments or may have heard them on the radio.

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