Update: Judge Catena denies motion for mistrial in Potsdam murder case
Oral "Nick" Hillary waits in the courtroom while his defense counsel meets with Judge Catena in chambers. Moments later the defense's request for a dismissal and mistrial was denied. Photo: Brit Hanson/North Country Public Radio
By ANDY GARDNERCANTON -- The Hillary murder trial has resumed as judge Felix Catena denied a motion from the defense for a mistrial and dismissal of the indictment.
Oral “Nick” Hillary is on trial for second-degree murder in St. Lawrence County Court, accused of killing 12-year-old Garrett Phillips in Potsdam in 2011.
Early Tuesday, the defense made the motion after discovering the prosecution knew of a witness with testimony that may exonerate the defendant. The state is required to turn over all potentially exculpatory evidence.
“Defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial will not be violated so long as defendant is still afforded a meaningful opportunity to use the material at trial … the court finds (the new evidence) has been disclosed at a time that permits defense to effectively use evidence,” Catena said. “Defendant’s request for dismissal of the indictment and mistrial are denied at this time.”
The defense announced in court this morning that they recently learned a state prison inmate named Gregory Brown claims to have seen John Jones at the murder scene near when Phillips died. Jones is a former paramour of Phillips’ mother, Tandy Cyrus, and is also a county sheriff deputy.
Brown, who is serving a sentence at Attica Correctional Facility, may be called to the witness stand.
Efstathia Kyriakopoulos, who represented Brown at the time, said she tried to be at the prison with Brown during an interview on April 10, 2015 but was denied that chance by District Attorney Mary Rain.
“Ms. Rain indicated he was a witness, therefore I didn’t need to be present … she said the evidence did not go with her theory of the case, therefore she was not interested,“ Kyriakopolous said.
Testimony resumed with two of Phillips’ grandparents.
Joseph Paul testified about three instances in 2011 where Hillary approached him, asking him to urge Cyrus to get back together with him.
“He asked us to try and get them back together … Nick and Tandy,” Paul said, later adding that in one of the conversations Hillary said “that it was Garrett and Aaron and Tandy’s fault” for the break-up.
Under cross-examination, Paul said he never saw Hillary hit Cyrus or Phillips, or verbally berate them.
After Paul, Phillips’ paternal grandmother Patricia Cyrus took the stand.