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Hockey Dad Trial: Main Participants Called Behind Closed Doors

Aired January 11, 2002 - 10:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have still more developing news. This time in the trial of the hockey dad on trial for manslaughter in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Let's bring in our Michael Okwu as the jury begins its second day of deliberations. Michael, good morning.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Daryn. The jury began its first full official day of deliberations at 9:00 this morning.

But we want to take you inside the courtroom that looks like just a shot of an empty courtroom here. But, essentially there's a door just off to the left, if you look behind the judge's desk there. And moments ago, I'd say about three or four minutes ago, the prosecution team, as well as Thomas Junta's defense team and Thomas Junta himself walked behind that door. Now we believe that door to lead to the judge's chambers. So, there may be, may be, some discussions going on behind closed doors.

And, of course, we will let you know what that is, as it develops. Now, all of this, of course, follows closing arguments yesterday. Sheila Calkins argued that Thomas Junta was getting angrier by the second when he twice confronted Michael Costin on July 5th, 2000. And she reminded jurors of key prosecution witnesses who testified that Junta stormed back onto the ice hockey rink moments after the first initial scuffle between the two men had already been broken up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEILA CALKINS, PROSECUTOR: He comes in, his fists are clenched, he's angry, he's got a look of anger on his face. What does Novetta Pinch tell you? Well, she's much further away than Nancy Blanchard because Nancy Blanchard is close enough that she gets this bruise.

Well, what does Novetta Pinch stay? "Stone-cold sober." That's the look on Thomas Junta's face. Is that a look of someone who's concerned about his kids in there?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OKWU: Before slamming his head to the ground, in that -- the medical examiner identified 15 different areas of trauma around Costin's head and neck.

Now, Junta's lawyer, Thomas Orlandi, described Junta as a gentle giant who never intended to kill anybody. He said for sure, this was a tragedy, but it was simply a fight.

Now, he said that the testimony of two key female prosecution witnesses was essentially clouded by emotions, and he even said that a prosecution witness had testified that he only saw Costin hit three times by Junta. And this of course, was all in self-defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS ORLANDI, JR., DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I submit, when you look at all these facts, that there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that Tom Junta is guilty of manslaughter either voluntarily or involuntarily. He reacted to a force that was directed at him. He defended himself against that force as he had a right to do.

Once that force was neutralized, he was out of harm's way, he stopped.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OKWU: Now, again, all of the key participants in this particular trial are behind closed doors. We believe that they are in the judge's chambers. What is being discussed is unclear at this point. But, again, the charges against Thomas Junta are manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. And when we find out what developments might be going occurring inside that courtroom, of course, we will let you know. Daryn.

KAGAN: All right. Michael Okwu in Cambridge, thank you very much.

Want to bring in our Cynthia Alksne, who's been helping us watch this trial and understand the different developments and what's been taking place.

First of all, this development today. Any number of things could be taking place in judge's chambers. Is that right, Cynthia?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Sure, but the one thing that we can feel pretty confident about, it is not a verdict. Because, if it was a verdict, the judge would just call everybody and say, "There's a verdict." And everybody would go into the courtroom.

So it means that the jurors probably have sent a note out, and the judge is going to have some discussion between the lawyers before they go outside to the courtroom on the record, on how he should respond to the note.

We know that yesterday, the jurors sent a note out saying that each wanted individual copies of the judge's instruction. He sent a tape in with them, and he denied their request. They may have asked for it in writing, and they may be arguing about that, or, the reason why they wanted those individual instructions is that they're arguing about the differences between the two types of voluntary and one type of involuntary manslaughter and they want to have a better definition.

So, he may be talking about that with them, and how they're going to handle it.

KAGAN: Through all your years as a prosecutor, do you get a feel for how quickly a verdict comes back?

ALKSNE: Well, it depends on the case. We -- I sort of had, you know, prosecutor round table yesterday, and we talked about what do we think about the timing. We all thought, that if this came back quickly, it was bad for the prosecution. And if it goes too long, it's bad for the prosecution. And somewhere in between will probably be okay. But it's all just lore -- it doesn't really --

KAGAN: A bunch of lawyers sitting around talking about it?

ALKSNE: It is worth what you pay for it. That's what it's worth.

KAGAN: Got it. I want to ask you a quick question here about what must be proven in terms of Thomas Junta. It's not just enough to prove self-defense. Of course, that will help him, but he has to prove self-defense, and that he didn't go too far in that self-defense to completely off the hook.

ALKSNE: Right, he has to have -- self-defense instruction requires that you use no more force than is necessary. And that if you have an opportunity to retreat or do something else, you have to take it. One of the voluntary manslaughter charges is pretty interesting and seems to fit. And that is, excessive use of force while defending yourself. So that in this voluntary manslaughter instruction, they wouldn't have to start a fight about, the jurors, who started the fight, who threw the first punch? Did Costin throw the punch or did he just react when he saw Junta coming in and raise up his hand as the prosecutor has suggested.

But, then, if he and Junta got into a fight, did Junta use much more force than was necessary in that fight in his use of self- defense?

KAGAN: Cynthia Alksne, thanks for helping us watch the trial. We will continue to follow it. Any developments, you'll hear about here on CNN.

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