Juror says he would have changed his verdict in Benedict Agostini manslaughter case

Benedict Agostini

A juror who helped convict a local man, of killing another man in 2009 testified Tuesday that he would have changed his verdict but he says the jury was tainted.

Lorenzo Jackson was called as a surprise witness in a hearing that featured a lot of conflicting testimony before Judge Anthony Aloi on a motion to toss the guilty verdict of Benedict Agostini. Agostini was convicted of the June 17, 2007 killing of George Printup during a bar fight at Pfohl's Tavern.

Agostini claimed the stabbing death was in self-defense, but he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 years in prison. His appeal was denied.

New evidence surfaced last year in which Agostini claimed that the jury was tainted by the presence of an investigator with the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office, who allegedly entered the secured jury room and hallways during the trial.

Jackson only came forward in the last few weeks, after learning about the appeal through watching reports on CNY Central.

Jackson testified that that investigator, Laverne Doctor, was in the secured areas in and around the jury room on several occasions during the trial. Jackson says he "felt somewhat nervous" even though he said Doctor said nothing to any of the jurors.

Jackson said, "I don't know what he heard, or what he said to others." Jackson remembers feeling strange. "We didn't know who that person was, or what they heard."

Jackson also testified had he known that Doctor was associated with the D.A.'s Office, he would have changed his verdict to not guilty.

When Jackson made that claim, Assistant D.A. Jim Maxwell objected and said, "It seems like we're trying to impeach a verdict."

Judge Aloi sustained the objection and said "That's not why we're here."

Maxwell pointed out that Doctor never said anything to any of the jurors and never had any interaction with any of them.

Maxwell called Vern Doctor to the stand. He said he never entered the jury room nor secure areas of the courthouse. Doctor said he never talked with the jurors or interated with them. He said as an investigator with the DA's office it was his job to assist prosecutor Joe Coolican.

The hearing took another unusual twist when alternate juror Pam Angotti testified that she wrote a statement that claimed Vern Doctor was in the presence of the jury during the trial. Angotti claimed that independent film producer Matthew Amouyal had her sign her name to a blank piece of paper to which he wrote out a statement she denies making.

Amouyal was called to testify in response to Angotti's testimony. He said she knowingly signed the statement which consisted of notes he wrote while he interviewed Angotti in preparation for a documentary on Ben Agostini's appeal.

The D.A's office also called another juror as well as several court personnel who all testified that Vern Doctor was not in the secure areas of the courthouse.

Judge Anthony Aloi says he would issue his ruling on the motion to set aside the verdict on March 13th.

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