October 8, 2015

Hung Jury in Tan ’17 Murder Trial; Case to be Retried

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After eight days of jury deliberations, Judge James Piampiano declared a mistrial in the murder trial of Charles Tan ’17 Thursday, finding that the deadlocked jury was unlikely to reach consensus.

Following Piampiano’s ruling, many jurors expressed discontent, telling reporters they thought they might have been able to arrive at a verdict that afternoon if they had been allowed to continue deliberations.

“We were shocked,” juror Jennifer McGoff told The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “We wanted more time. We were working very hard.”

Reports from the jury room indicate that the group began deliberations split nine-to-three in favor of conviction, and ended with a vote of eight-to-four for conviction, although some jurors refused to reveal their votes, citing concerns that Tan receives a “fair trial.” Some jurors added that, through deliberations, vote totals fluctuated significantly, with some minds changing  “every day,” according to The Democrat and Chronicle.

Tan will remain free on bail until Nov. 5, when all parties will return to court for a hearing to determine whether a retrial is necessary. The prosecution can now choose whether to have a retrial or drop the charges, though they said earlier in the week that they plan to continue vying for a conviction in the event of a hung jury.

“If I get a hung jury I will try it again and I will try it better,” said Assistant District Attorney William Gargan Tuesday.

Tan was a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences until Feb. 9, when his father was found shot dead inside their Pittsford, New York home, likely already dead for days. After Tan was charged with second degree murder, allegations that his father had been abusive towards him and his mother came to light.

Throughout the trial, Tan’s attorneys insisted that the home environment was unstable and contended that the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to prove that Tan had even held the murder weapon.

After he was indicted, Tan received an outpouring of support from both Cornellians and his local community members. Throughout his trial, the courtroom gallery was filled with his supporters.

Following the mistrial, defense attorneys admitted that they began preparing for a second trial earlier this week, when the prospect of a hung jury began to seem likely.

“Anyone who is satisfied by a hung jury is crazy,” said defense lawyer Brian DeCarolis. “So, we’re disappointed.”