HARTFORD – Hartford Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey on Wednesday excused the only black female juror in Mayor Eddie Perez’s trial for alleged bribery and larceny.
After sending a note to Dewey, the Cuban-American woman on day six of Perez’s trial testified that she has a medical condition, which prevents her from staying awake and focused. She is also on disability with the state, she said.
A white juror was sworn in shortly after Dewey released the woman.
In response to questions from The Hartford Guardian about the prior vetting process and whether this matter had come up, Defense Attorney Hope Seeley said, “Nope, she said she could focus and do well then.”
During jury selection, prosecutors opposed the excused juror because she filed a complaint against a police officer who handled the investigation of her rape case, saying he tried to steer her in selecting the wrong man for her rape. Seeley had objected to her being removed from the case.
There’s now only one person of color on the jury, a Latino. The other two people of color are alternates and women: one African American and one South Asian.
On the first two days of the trial all four jurors of color sat in the back, while all five white jurors sat in front. Occasionally, the South Asian woman sat in the front and the only white male sat in the back. It was a noticeably pattern.
The racial makeup in the Perez’s trial is important and might be cause for concern, some say.
“That’s a huge blow to Mayor Perez,” said Hartford Attorney Carlton Hume.“That’s because they are putting a white suburbanite on.”
But Hume added that if the Cuban-American juror’s story is correct, then she’s of no use to the court.
“If she’s not paying attention and cannot follow proceedings, it is also not fair to Perez because she wouldn’t have an independent thought process,” he said. “Perez would have been judged by a jury of five and not a jury of six.”
The state is accusing Perez of receiving a bribe from Carlos Costa and in return intervened in the relationship between Costa and the city’s Department of Public Works. To date, prosecutors have called 12 witnesses, including city contractor Costa, his vendors, workers and city employees, and consultants.
Costa’s testimony revealed that he offered to install kitchen countertops for the mayor and his wife and that it would be “no problem” to do the work cheaper. The initial work of just kitchen countertop evolved into bathroom renovations. He said he had no plans to bill the mayor.
On Wednesday, Dewey also ruled that State Inspector Michael Sullivan, who is scheduled to testify today, can not reveal before the jury information gleaned from a secretly taped conversation between himself and Defense Attorney Hubert Santos.