It took less than an hour for jurors to return a verdict of guilty in the trial of Edward Morris Sr. last week. Now that verdict is in question because deliberations by the jury of three men and three women -- all white -- may have included input from a seventh, the alternate, juror.
As of deadline for this article, Morris still is in jail and Sullivan Town Court Judge John D. Button is expected to hear two motions from defense attorney Martin Michaels Tuesday Jan. 16. According to District Attorney Donald Cerio, the first motion asks the court to nullify the verdict, alleging the alternate juror in the case participated in deliberations. The second motion alleges victim Michael J. Patane perjured himself on the witness stand.
Morris, 59, of Pine Ridge Road, Sullivan, was charged with five counts of second-degree aggravated harassment after allegedly painting ethnic and racial slurs denigrating blacks and Italians on a shed on his property, which abuts that of the Patane family. One of the items painted on the outbuilding included that members of those heritages would be shot. According to Patane, whose 14-year-old granddaughter is of bi-racial heritage, his is the only family on Pine Ridge Road to whom the message could have been directed.
Two of the aggravated harassment charges are for the alleged violation of penal law section 240 (30) sub-paragraph one, which declares "a person is guilty of aggravated harassment in the second degree when, with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, he or she: 1. Either (a) communicates with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, or by telegraph, mail or any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm; or (b) causes a communication to be initiated by mechanical or electronic means or otherwise with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, or by telegraph, mail or any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm."