Jury signals disagreement at Hughes murder trial

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The jury at Dante Hughes' murder trial in New London Superior Court completed a second full day of deliberations Wednesday after signaling to court officials that they are having trouble reaching a verdict.

The panel will resume deliberating on Thursday.

Hughes, 32, is accused of murdering Joey Gingerella in the parking lot of Ryan's Pub on Dec. 11, 2016. Jurors heard eight days of testimony before beginning deliberations late Monday. They are charged with deciding whether Hughes is guilty of murder, and if they find he is not guilty of that, they can consider the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm.

The jury deliberated all day Tuesday. When jury members returned on Wednesday morning, the foreman asked court officer Martha Jenssen what would happen if the panel could not reach an agreement. Jenssen reported to Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed that the foreman had added that "they agree he (Hughes) is guilty of something but can't decide what" and said that "he could do this (deliberate) all day."

Defense attorney Walter D. Hussey moved for a mistrial, saying the foreperson has been told repeatedly to communicate with the court only by sending out a note. The judge denied the motion, saying the event was not so prejudicial to the case that it is irreparable. She instructed the entire 12-member panel to communicate with the court only in writing and to only discuss the case when the full jury was assembled in the jury room. She also spoke with the foreperson separately. 

A short time later, the jury sent a note asking the judge to "please help us understand" the instructions she had given on the state's burden of proof with regard to the issue of intent. Jongbloed provided further instruction that included telling the panel that for them to find Hughes guilty of murder, they have to find that he acted with the intent to kill somebody and did, in fact, kill somebody.

The jury asked also whether they could look up the definition of manslaughter in a dictionary. She told them they are to refer only to the instructions provided by the court.

Also Wednesday, Gingerella's mother, Tammy de la Cruz, and Hughes' mother, Angela Mims, came together in the courtroom hallway, hugging each other and sobbing as observers looked on in amazement. The two mothers had not spoken and had kept their distance in the hallway.

k.florin@theday.com

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