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Oct 15, 2009 1:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Oddone trial will start Monday

Oct 15, 2009 1:09 PM

A jury of six men and six women will begin hearing arguments in the murder trial of Anthony Oddone, the man accused of choking an off-duty corrections officer to death during a bar fight in Southampton in summer 2008, at 10 a.m. on Monday morning in County Court in Riverhead.

The trial is expected to last as long as a month or more.

The judge in the case, Judge C. Randall Hinrichs, pushed the start of the trial, originally anticipated to begin today, back to Monday to allow Mr. Oddone’s defense attorney, Sarita Kedia, time to review reams of evidence the prosecution presented her with late on Tuesday afternoon.

The two sides did not agree on the last two members of the jury panel—alternates who will be used if members of the jury are dismissed—until late on Wednesday afternoon. The jury consists of six women, all in their early to middle ages, and six men, four of whom appear to be in their 50s and two in their late 20s or early 30s.

Mr. Oddone, 26, is charged with two counts of murder in the second degree and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted. According to accounts of the August 7, 2008 incident, he had been dancing on a cocktail table at the Southampton Publick House when Andrew Reister, a Suffolk County jail corrections officer who had been moonlighting as security at the pub, told him to get down. When Mr. Oddone refused, a scuffle ensued, and Mr. Oddone got Mr. Reister in a chokehold. When Mr. Oddone, a caddy at a local golf course, released his grip and fled from the bar in a taxi, Mr. Reister lay unconscious. He was pronounced brain dead two days later.

During the last of the jury selection, Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield told prospective jurors that the trial can be expected to last four or five weeks and that more than 30 witnesses are likely to be called, many of them witnesses to the scuffle that resulted in Mr. Reister’s death.

The questioning from the two attorneys hinted at the angle the trial is likely to take. Ms. Merrifield asked jurors of their own personal experiences with individuals who have had too much to drink and whether they would believe the accounts of someone who had been drinking. She also asked them to promise her that if she made her case, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they find Mr. Oddone guilty of the charges leveled and not lesser charges that might be introduced later in the trial.

Ms. Kedia, for her part, asked the prospective jurors if any of them had ever been in a situation where panic or adrenaline made them feel like they weren’t thinking clearly. She also asked if they would place any special weight on testimony given by a uniformed officer.

Jury selection started on Monday, October 5, and continued throughout last week.

On Monday, Mr. Oddone was transferred from the New York City jail on Rikers Island, where he has been held for the last 14 months, to the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow to make the daily trip to the Arthur M. Cromarty Court Complex in Riverhead easier on law enforcement officials, according to a spokesman for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

Because Mr. Reister was a Suffolk County Department of Corrections officer who worked at the county jail in Riverhead, next door to the courtroom where the trial will be held, Judge C. Randall Hinrichs ordered him held in a different facility for his own protection and to avoid a conflict of interest.

Ms. Kedia said on Tuesday that she had not been notified that her client was being transferred.

On Tuesday, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department chief of staff Michael Sharkey said that the decision to have Mr. Oddone moved to Nassau County was a logistical one, because once the trial started, Mr. Oddone would have to be brought to court on a daily basis. “It’s a little bit of a problem getting in and out of Rikers Island,” he said.

Suffolk County deputy sheriffs are responsible for transporting Mr. Oddone to and from court each day.

In court last month, Ms. Kedia said that visiting her client on Rikers Island was a long and arduous process—taking as many as two hours from the time she arrived at the prison complex near the Bronx to when she actually got to sit down with Mr. Oddone. During the trial, she said, such a trek would prevent her from being able to properly interact with her client after each day’s proceedings. Judge Hinrichs ordered that court officers be kept in the courtroom at the end of each day to allow Ms. Kedia and Mr. Oddone to meet at the defense table as needed.

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Thanks Michael for updating this story as it develops.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 16, 09 12:20 PM
Guilty. Life. Done.
By private (27), sag harbor on Oct 17, 09 8:06 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By local (106), north sea on Oct 17, 09 7:57 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By jonnyhampton (29), Southampton on Oct 18, 09 12:31 PM