Supporters of Benedict Agostini gathered outside the Onondaga County Courthouse in Syracuse on Monday to protest his conviction. They are calling for his conviction to be dismissed and for him to be released from prison. They say the jury was tainted when an investigator walked in on jury deliberations.
Agostini was convicted of manslaughter six years ago. He has filed a motion before Judge Anthony Aloi, claiming the jury was tainted.
His conviction stems from an incident in June 2007, when George Printup was stabbed to death during a brawl at Pfohl's tavern on South Salina Street. The next day, Agostini turned himself in, but said he did it in self defense.
Agostini claims the fight originated over some insulting comments directed toward his wife. He said he was beaten down by 5 men inside the bar. When he escaped into the parking lot, Agostini says Printup came out after him and he stabbed Printup, fearing for his life.
Others say Agostini started the fight and taunted Printup to come into the parking lot to continue the fight which would contradict a claim of self defense.
Agostini was eventually convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
His sister Jennifer has spent the last several years fighting for his freedom. She set up a website with an online petition that claims the jury was tainted. The petition claims the jury was tainted when LaVerne Doctor, a D.A. Investigator, entered the jury room on several occasions. It also says Doctor should not have been assigned to the trial because he and the victim, George Printup are both members of the Onondaga Indian Nation.
Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick has said "there is absolutely no way in the courthouse structure that a Da's investigator can walk in unannounced on a deliberating jury...it's impossible."