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Lawyers busy in New London wrongful death case

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published February 13. 2012 4:00AM
Crime scene photos, police policy at issue in upcoming trial from 2003 fatal shooting

Attorneys bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of New London and its police department want to show the jury photographs from the crime scene and from the autopsy of shooting victim David Romero.

Lawyers for the city are seeking to exclude the pictures, saying "they are not probative and therefore irrelevant."

The lawyers for Romero's survivors want to tell the jurors about changes the police department made to its policy on protective orders in the aftermath of the September 2003 shooting that left Romero dead and his girlfriend, Ayfer Kaya, critically wounded at the hands of Kaya's jealous ex-husband.

The defense says to do so would "unfairly confuse the jury and prejudice the defendants."

Like ballet masters readying dancers for a recital, the attorneys for both sides are attempting to choreograph the upcoming trial in a series of court filings called motions in limine. The Reardon Law Firm of New London is representing Kaya and Romero's sister, Marta Paguada. The city is represented by attorneys from two law firms: Cetrulo & Capone of Boston and Howd & Ludorf of Hartford.

Ultimately, Judge Emmet L. Cosgrove will decide what is admissible. He said during a hearing last week that he has been reviewing the motions in limine and will be taking them up with the attorneys. At least 17 have been filed since jury selection began on Jan. 12, according to Judicial Branch records. In many cases, the attorneys have filed objections and replies to the opponents' motions.

The most contentious issue in the flurry of pretrial filings is the immigration status of Romero, a 35-year-old Honduran native who died of gunshot wounds to the chest and pelvis when Kurtulus Kalican stormed into Kaya's bedroom at 88 Blackhall St. and opened fire on Sept. 22, 2003.

The defense wants to introduce evidence that Romero was an illegal immigrant who had provided false documents to obtain a job at a local insulation company. Though they say they would only use the information to address Romero's estimated future earnings, the plaintiff's attorneys say the testimony is inflammatory and irrelevant.

Jury selection in the case ground to a halt for about a week as the plaintiffs moved for a mistrial over the immigration issue. Attorney Robert I. Reardon Jr. filed a separate lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming Police Chief Margaret Ackley improperly conspired with immigration officials to obtain information about Romero. Back in the state court, Cosgrove denied the mistrial motion and ordered jury selection to resume. To date, four jurors have been selected.

Meanwhile, the attorneys for both sides continue their efforts to corral the evidence so that the jury hears the case to their client's advantage.

Romero's attorneys want to prevent the jury from hearing that their expert on police procedure, a former state employee, once was accused by the Office of State Ethics of using his state position to obtain financial gain for himself.

The city wants to preclude testimony regarding the Cheshire Police Department's firearms protocol, which the plaintiff claims is better than the procedure used by New London. The defense also wants to exclude testimony from Kathy Berkel, a family violence victim advocate who worked with Kaya after her ex-husband was arrested for trying to strangle her. Berkel has said that Kaya stood in her office after the strangling incident and told her, "He's going to kill me." A month later, despite a criminal protective order that prohibited him from entering Kaya's home and from possessing a gun, Kalican carried out the shootings. He is serving a 64-year prison sentence.

k.florin@theday.com

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