Jury Split After 8 Days — and Counting — in So. Ozone Park Murder Trial Deliberations

Judge Ira Margulis is presiding over the murder trial of Sherman Manning.  Eagle  photo by David Brand.

Judge Ira Margulis is presiding over the murder trial of Sherman Manning. Eagle photo by David Brand.

By David Brand

Jurors are taking their time deciding the fate of Sherman Manning, the man accused of killing a 20-year-old in South Ozone Park in April 2014.

Eights day to be exact — and because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the deliberations extended into a third week on Monday.

Jurors recessed on Monday afternoon and Deliberation Day 9 will begin Tuesday,

Manning, 40, is accused of the shooting death of Howard Beach resident Branden Santiago on the corner of 108th Street and 103rd Avenue. The family of 20-year-old Santiago, who was reportedly known as “Scooter Joe,” has attended Queens Supreme Court every day of the trial — which began on Oct. 15 — and throughout the deliberations — which started on Nov. 13.

“We’re here everyday and it’s been rough for us,” said the victim’s mother Bernice Santiago. “We want justice. We want a guilty verdict.”

Bernice Santiago said she and her three family members, who were at court on Monday, have noticed that Judge Ira Margulis has firmly instructed the jurors to resume deliberations on several occasions.

“We’re thankful that the judge is talking to the jury and telling them they have to go back in and if they have to consider the evidence a hundred times, they have to consider it a hundred times.”

Margulis issued his first Allen charge — a legal instruction by the presiding judge to help encourage the jurors to continue deliberating when they’re split on a verdict — on Nov. 20 after the jury was first officially hung. The jury said they were split on Nov. 15 and Margulis reread the deliberation instructions. On Nov. 16, jurors retracted the note and agreed to resume discussions.

The jurors have focused on a surveillance video compilation that allegedly puts Manning in a white van in the vicinity of the crime scene and showed Santiago near the van. Santiago was not arrested for the crime until December 2015. Prosecutors have also relied on testimony of a Manning associate, who said Manning confessed to the murder.

Manning’s defense attorney Michael Shiff said he has never encountered a more a diligent jury.

“This is the longest deliberation I’ve ever seen,” Siff said. “It’s hard to tell what the hold up is.”

If convicted, Manning faces up to 25 years to life in prison.

The long deliberation contrasts the jury deliberations in the Karina Vetrano murder trial last week. After just over one day of deliberating, jurors informed Justice Michael Aloise that they were split over murder and sex abuse charges against defendant Chanel Lewis.

Aloise declared a mistrial without issuing an Allen charge.