Deadlocked jury delays justice in New London murder case
When Jared Silva was gunned down on the street in front of his New London package store three years ago, local residents held a rally and coined the phrase "Justice for Jared."
His mother, sprightly octogenarian Dorothy Silva, joined the Survivors of Homicide support group, volunteered at a soup kitchen and waited for the day when she would learn what had happened to her only son.
She is still waiting.
On Friday, after a New London jury informed Judge Arthur C. Hadden it was unable to reach a verdict in the case of Jared Silva's accused murderer, Gary L. Clarke, Silva's mother maintained her good humor even as she acknowledged her frustration. She said it would "do no good" to get angry.
"I'm exhausted," she said. "My daughter is exhausted. It's been an emotional roller coaster."
For the past month, Silva and her daughter, Nancy Donovan, brought cushions to make the wooden courtroom benches more bearable and graciously accepted the condolences of Clarke's relatives, who said they were sorry for their loss.
The victim's mother and sister opted to stay in the courtroom when the prosecutor displayed crime scene and autopsy photos of Silva, who had been shot in the face at close range. The well-regarded businessman had died in a pool of blood, in front of neighbors who testified that he seemed to be trying to say something but could not get the words out.
The mother and daughter had listened as witnesses gave conflicting and profanity-laden accounts of the killing and as Clarke's attorney attempted to persuade the jury that someone else had killed Silva.
When the jury started deliberating on Jan. 19, Silva and Donovan brought books to court and waited for a verdict even though they said they had realized a good outcome was not possible. Last Monday, which would have been Silva's 50th birthday, came and went without a verdict.
On Friday, after shaking hands with the state's attorney and accepting hugs from well-wishers, Silva and Donovan said they were happy to be leaving the courthouse.
"We do have a great respect for the jury system and the care they (jury members) have taken," said Donovan. "From my standpoint, there's no closure. No matter what it (the outcome) was, it wasn't going to be one of those days when you're celebrating."
The jury sent the judge a note on Friday morning saying that 11 of the 12 believed that Clarke was not guilty of murder while nine of the 12 believed he was guilty of felony murder and robbery. Hadden read them the so-called "Chip Smith" charge, in which he asked them to try to come to an agreement. Most of the panel members had lowered their eyes as they filed into the courtroom.
"If the much greater of you reach a similar conclusion, dissenting members should give it consideration," Hadden told the panel.
However, he said, "Do not ever change your mind just because other jurors see things differently or to get the case over with. Take as much time as you need."
The panelists deliberated another two hours before sending out a note that said they simply could not reach a verdict. Hadden thanked them for their service, dismissed them and declared a mistrial.
Clarke will remain in prison and his case will return to pretrial status as the parties attempt, once again, to resolve it short of trial. If that is not possible, State's Attorney Michael L. Regan said, there would be another trial.
Throughout the trial, Regan and Inspector Timothy Pitkin had taken time to explain the sometimes confusing process to Silva's family members.
"Obviously they (the jury) worked hard, and we're disappointed," Regan said. "We'll try it again."
Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan, who is not related to Silva's sister, said he, too, is grateful for the jury's hard work. "We hoped for an acquittal," he said. "Maybe we'll get it next time."
Clarke's mother said she did not want to comment.
Trial testimony revealed that Clarke was standing over Silva's body when police arrived at the scene and that his cell phone was found in a pool of blood between Silva's forearm and torso. There was little other physical evidence to link Clarke to the murder, so the case hinged, in large part, on the credibility of associates of Clarke who were called as state's witnesses.
The jury panel of eight men and four women had asked for read-backs of several of the witnesses' testimony, including that of Clarke's co-defendant, Cosmo Frieson, who cooperated with the state in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Frieson had testified that he and Clarke planned to rob Silva after closing time at the package store. He said Silva resisted and Clarke panicked and shot him in the face. Other witnesses testified that Frieson brought the stolen revolver used in the shooting to a friend's nearby home and that the friend, Tyshawn Smith, returned it to Clarke the next day. The weapon was not recovered.
Donovan, the defense attorney, had asserted during the trial that it was Smith who did the shooting.
To find Clarke guilty of murder, the jury would have to agree unanimously that the state had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Clarke had intentionally killed Silva. To find him guilty on the felony murder charge, the jury would have to agree that the state proved he had killed Silva during the commission of another crime. The felony murder charge does not require a finding of intent.
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