Jury selection to resume in wrongful death case against New London

A New London judge has ordered attorneys to resume picking jurors in a wrongful death lawsuit against New London and its police department even though the issue of homicide victim David Romero's immigration status remains unresolved.

Superior Court Judge Emmet L. Cosgrove denied a motion for a mistrial in Ayfer Kaya et al. vs. City of New London after listening to oral arguments from attorney Robert I. Reardon Jr. for the plaintiff and James Carroll for the defense. The judge ordered that jury selection resume Tuesday and said the court would rule later on whether to allow testimony about Romero's immigration status.

Four jurors had been selected when Reardon called for a mistrial last week based on the city's investigation of Romero's immigration status. The Honduran native was living in New London and working for a local insulation company when he was gunned down in September 2003 by Kurtulus Kalican, the ex-husband of Romero's girlfriend, Ayfer Kaya. Kalican also shot Kaya, who survived.

Kaya and Romero's sister, Marta Paguada, claim police failed to respond properly to escalating domestic violence incidents involving Kaya and Kalican and to confiscate a .357 magnum from Kalican.

The city claims that Romero's real name was David Domingo Matute Paguada and that he was using a fraudulent resident alien card and a Social Security number belonging to a Kentucky woman who died in 1981. Reardon is seeking to prevent the jury from hearing the evidence, which he claims is irrelevant and inflammatory. He claims the city improperly obtained information about Romero when Police Chief Margaret Ackley placed a phone call to an immigrations official on Jan. 26.

Carroll, the city's attorney, said the city is seeking only to use the immigration information to demonstrate that it could diminish the plaintiff's ability to recover economic damages by $1 million. Juries in wrongful death lawsuits are allowed to compensate survivors for economic losses, including the future earnings of the deceased.

The judge told the attorneys he is considering instructing the jury to limit its consideration of immigration status to how it relates to Romero's potential earning capacity. He said he and his law clerks have been reviewing the relevant case law.

"Based on the preliminary work, I do think Mr. Romero's status is relevant on the issue of his lost earning capacity," Cosgrove said. He said he would consider allowing Reardon to conduct a hearing on the immigration issue but is first requiring him to produce for the court what he intends to present.

The judge also denied a motion to sever the cases of Ayfer Kaya and David Romero. Reardon had sought to separate the cases after the immigration issue arose in an effort to protect Kaya's case from being tainted.

"To separate the trials would create a substantial demand on judicial time and resources and that of the parties," Cosgrove said.

The attorneys will be picking six regular jurors and three or four alternate members. The trial was to begin some time this month but is more likely to take place in March.

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