New York Daily News

Apr. 19, 2012


Five men charged with killing NYPD cop Figoski won’t be tried together

Each is entitled to a separate jury: judge

By Oren Yaniv

Police officer and 9/11 first responder Alonzo Harris's discussed carcinogens found on his uniform during a press conference on Sunday. Photo by Kevin Hagen for New York Daily News

John Roca/New York Daily News

The men charged in Peter Figoski’s death (L to R) Defendants Michael Velez, Nelson Morales, Kevin Santos, Lamont Pride and Aerial Tejad.

All five men charged with killing NYPD cop Peter Figoski will not face justice together, a Brooklyn judge said Thursday.

Because accused gunman Lamont Pride and alleged accomplices Kevin Santos, Michael Velez and Nelson Morales made statements to police, "Each of these defendants is entitled to a separate jury," said Supreme Court Justice Alan Marrus.

"We can't try all of these defendants at the same time," he added. But he said it might be feasible to "start the ball rolling" and try two of the men together with two juries hearing the evidence and rendering separate verdicts.

Prosecutor Kenneth Taub said he has an idea regarding the "batting order" of trials but that he wasn't ready to reveal it yet.

Trials with more than two juries are extremely rare for mostly administrative reasons.

The statements to police result in separate juries because if one defendant's version is heard by the panel and he doesn't take the stand, a second defendant is denied the right to confront his accuser.

Figoski was shot in the face Dec. 12 when responding to a botched burglary of a drug dealer in Cypress Hills.

The judge also ordered hearings regarding the suspect's statements, but refused such a hearing for Ariel Tejada, who never spoke to cops but gave an exclusive jailhouse interview to the Daily News.

With all sides still waiting for the results of DNA tests, the case was put off until September when all suspects are due back in court.

The five felons appeared shackled and cuffed as about 50 officers stared them down. Police union chief Patrick Lynch noted this was the third time this week he appeared in the courthouse in a hearing for a suspect charged with attacking a cop.