DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN— The manslaughter conviction of rookie police officer Peter Liang will stand, and the now-fired NYPD cop who accidentally shot unarmed Brooklyn resident Akai Gurley will get sentenced next week.
That was the ruling of Judge Danny Chun late Thursday afternoon, despite new testimony from a juror who helped to convict Liang, that indicated that the juror failed to disclose during jury selection that his father had been convicted and incarcerated for a similar crime to that for which Liang has been found guilty.
For two days, juror Michael Vargas testified about how, when he’d served as a juror, he’d told attorneys, in another case for which he’d been considered, that his deceased, estranged father had served time in prison for accidentally shooting and killing a friend.
Vargas was not accepted into the jury in that case, but hours later, during voir dire, or juror selection, in Liang’s case, Vargas said that he did not have a close relative who’d ever been convicted of a serious crime.
Vargas also has posted comments on Facebook over recent years accusing police of brutality and abuse of power.
Liang’s attorneys argued in court on Thursday that it all indicated that Vargas had deceived the court in order to ensure he got to serve on the Liang jury and ultimately convict the 18-month veteran officer.
Around 4:25 on Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun ruled that Vargas’s testimony showed that he “was not at the top level of intelligence,” and therefore was unlikely to be capable of intentionally misleading the court.
He judge ruled that the manslaughter conviction will stand.
Minutes later, outside of court, family members and supporters of Akai Gurley shouted praises for the ruling, and called for Liang’s sentence to be harsh.
“Peter Liang need to be held accountable,” said Hertencia Petersen, Gurley’s aunt.
“This could have been anyone of us out here family member” who was shot by the officer, she said. “Here was a human life laying there.”
Gurley’s family is calling for jail time for Liang, even though the district attorney’s office has recommended probation.
The sentencing is scheduled for 2:30 P.M. next Tuesday.