The trial of former Milford police officer Jason Anderson on two counts of manslaughter is scheduled to enter its evidence phase tomorrow — Tuesday, Oct. 23.
Anderson will be facing a jury of three men and three women as well as three alternates when the evidence presentation starts.
His lawyer, Hugh Keefe, said it was “a difficult jury to pick,” given the extent of publicity the case has gotten in the area.
The charges of second-degree manslaughter and reckless driving stem from an accident in the early morning hours of June 13, 2009, when Anderson and fellow Milford officer Richard Pisani were returning from a mutual aid call in West Haven.
Pisani had the dashboard camera running, which caught the accident on tape as it happened. It was released by the Milford Police Department and shown on TV as well as Internet news sites.
The video shows one cruiser, later identified as Anderson’s cruiser, pulling past the cruiser with the camera on the right, heading toward Milford on the Boston Post Road, when the oncoming vehicle driven by David Servin turns left into Dogwood Road. Anderson’s cruiser, which was believed to be traveling at 94 mph, collided with the Mazda. Both David Servin and the passenger, Ashlie Krakowski, died as a result of the accident.
Both teenagers were found to have elevated blood alcohol levels and police found drug paraphernalia in Servin’s pockets but no marijuana traces in his system.
In pre-trial motions, State’s Attorney Kevin D. Lawlor had asked Judge Denise Markle to not admit the marijuana vials or Krakowski’s blood alcohol level as evidence.
Judge Markle has not ruled on that motion yet.
Lawlor, when he introduced himself to the pool of 24 potential jurors, read a list of names all of which may come up during the trial. The list included emergency responders from Milford, Orange and West Haven as well as others connected to the case.
Potential jurors who knew any of these people were asked to remove themselves.
After two and a half days of jury selection, Keefe and Lawlor had no more than three confirmed jurors out of the nine needed. The other six were picked in two days.
Lawlor told the potential jurors, “It’s your duty to decide whether the evidence presented in this courtroom proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Anderson caused the death of the two Orange teenagers.”
The jury’s decision will have to be unanimous, and Lawlor’s concern seemed to be to find team players who are comfortable with that.
Keefe, on the other hand, asked them, “Are you a leader or a follower?” and “What if you have a reasonable doubt?”
Keefe questioned potential jurors about their TV and Internet usage and whether or not they had seen the video from the dashboard camera, which was repeatedly shown on news sites. In pretrial motions he had asked Markle to move the trial to a different court, saying it would be difficult to find an unbiased jury in Milford.
“This man is entitled to a jury that has no opinion about this case whatsoever,” Keefe said in court.
She denied the motion, stating that Keefe did not prove that Anderson cannot get a fair trial in this judicial district.
Markle instructed the jurors to not talk to anyone about the case, and to not engage in any private investigation, either by reading up on the case or by visiting the crash site on the Boston Post Road.
Jurors were advised that they may have to spend three weeks in court. The evidence phase will last probably eight days, until the end of the month.