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Attorney alleges juror was drunk during murder trial

By: Eric Laughlin, Gold Country News Service
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Allegations that a juror was regularly under the influence of alcohol during a recent murder trial could result in a new trial. in January, David Harrison Buzzetta was convicted of first-degree murder after a panel of jurors became convinced that Buzzetta brutally murdered his stepfather Paul Bonomo with a baseball bat in March 2007. But after their verdict was announced, jurors came forward to the defense and said they smelled alcohol on one of their peers. One juror even reported that the same suspected juror was nodding his/her head, appearing to be sleeping. The accusations are included in a motion filed last week by defense attorney Vickie Cody, who's requesting a new trial based on that, as well as lack of evidence presented by the prosecution during the three week-long trial. Included in Cody's motion is a declaration by one of at least three jurors who suspected intoxication based on odor. It states the bailiff was notified once during the first week of testimony and one more time shortly thereafter. In Cody's motion, she acknowledges that all parties (she and prosecutor Tracy Lunardi), were told of the initial incident and that a decision was made to wait and see if another complaint was made. "The parties were never advised during the trial that a second complaint had been made that the same juror was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol," Cody writes. "Nor were the parties ever advised during the trial that the same juror appeared at times to be sleeping during the presentation of evidence." The declaring juror states the following: "The trial continued and nearly every day of the trial I could smell alcohol on Juror Number 1. Since I had told the bailiff twice about Juror Number 1 smelling of alcohol, and nothing appeared to be done after my complaints, I did not again tell the bailiff." The juror goes on to state that neither he/she or the other jurors directly observed Juror Number 1 consume alcohol, and that the odor was not noticed during deliberations. It was also reported that the suspected juror often stayed to himself during breaks in the trial. Cody's motion was filed three days before Buzzetta was set to be sentenced by Judge Mark Curry, who presided over the trial. After Buzzetta was convicted, the same jurors began hearing evidence in an insanity stage, which was cut short when Buzzetta took a plea deal for 26 years to life in prison. UPDATE: During Friday's hearing, Judge Curry and the attorneys agreed on the contents of a letter (drafted by Curry), that will be sent out to all twelve jurors notifying them that their identities and contact information could be released to the both sides. State law requires that jurors be notified and given 20 days to respond to such proposed releases. Curry will then rule in an April 2 hearing whether or not to release the identities. During Friday's hearing, prosecutor Lunardi said she'd received correspondence from three jurors who are all strongly opposed to the new trial motion. It's unknown if those three include Juror Number 1. Judge Curry also mentioned that he too had received e-mails from jurors, but ruled that they not be made public. Curry delayed a sentencing hearing for Buzzetta that had been set for March 19. It's not known when the judge will rule on the motion for new trial.