RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — The horrifying murder case involving an ex-NYPD officer and his former fiancee’ — both accused of allowing the cop’s 8-year-old son to freeze to death — moved into a new phase in recent days, with defense lawyers now battling for costly, separate trials.
“It would be really prejudicial to my client, whose life is on the line, to not have her own trial,” Tuohy said.
Prosecutors on the case are pushing for one trial with two juries.
Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Glenn Green argued to Judge William Condon in Riverhead Criminal Court on Thursday that a dual jury would be economical.
“Dual juries have happened before,” he said. “It’s the same evidence for both defendants … They are charged as ‘acting in concert.”
A single trial with two juries could involve 18 people on each panel, when factoring in alternate jurors for the case.
Even as defense attorneys pushed back against a single trial in one courtroom, Condon said “other venues are being discussed.”
The judge referenced a historic opioid trial against drug manufacturers that’s underway at Touro Law School in Central Islip.
One of Valva’s defense lawyers, Anthony LaPinta, pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as one reason why two juries at one trial would not be a good idea.
“This is going to be nothing short of a nightmare trial if you choose two juries … given the current state of affairs, given the delta variant,” LaPinta argued. “Your average citizen is going to be scared to death … absent getting the Nassau Coliseum [as a trial venue].”
LaPinta argued dual juries would not be fair to his client.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office won its first legal battle on Thursday, regarding graphic evidence in the case.
Condon ruled home surveillance footage showing the last days and hours of Thomas Valva’s life was obtained legally by Suffolk County detectives.
When Valva and Pollina were first arrested, prosecutors said in open court the Ring surveillance videos and other surveillance found in the couple’s Center Moriches home showed a “house of horror,” where Thomas and his older brother, both on the autism spectrum, were often targets of abuse.
One video reportedly showed Thomas being dragged down a staircase a day and a half before he died because he had soiled his pajamas during the night. The surveillance showed him freezing on a concrete floor in the family garage, where he was forced to sleep, and his father reportedly sending a text message, “Boo Hoo! He’s cold.”
Another surveillance video will show Thomas “face planting” onto the floor during the final hours of his life, when the temperature inside the garage was 19 degrees. The boy’s body temperature at the time of his death was only 76 degrees.
Meanwhile, Valva was recorded on a 911 call telling a dispatcher that Thomas fell when he was running for the school bus on the morning of his death.
The couple was raising Pollina’s three daughters with Valva’s three sons, who were removed from their mother’s care after a bitter custody battle in Nassau County.
The boys’ mom, Justyna Zubko-Valva, said her ex-husband’s status as an active NYPD officer worked against her in the custody case.
Multiple teachers in Suffolk County’s East Moriches School District made at least 20 calls to the New York State Child Abuse Hotline over a two year period, reporting the two older Valva boys often came to school with bruises, soiled clothing, and showing signs of malnourishment.
The teachers are expected to be prosecution witnesses at trial.
Judge Condon said he hoped jury selection could start in mid-October. He will decide on the defense motion for two separate trials in September.