BUFFALO, NY - 2 On Your Side is hearing from the family of Eain Brooks after a state appellate court ordered a new trial for the man convicted of killing him. The panel of judges cited questions about possible juror bias during the trial of Matthew Kuzdzal.
"I was dumbfounded, what this did was it brought up feelings of 'oh no, do we have to go through this all over again?'" said Carolyn Spring, the paternal great-grandmother of Eain Brooks, reacting to a state appellate court decision -- overturning the conviction of Matthew Kuzdzal, the man, who was found guilty of sexually abusing and killing Eain, who died in 2013.
"I was so close to forgiving this sinner, so close until this came," Spring said.
Eain's mom had been dating Kuzdzal and left her son alone with him at their home on the west side. Kuzdzal testified at trial that he got angry with Eain and pushed him, causing Eain to strike his head on a bath tub. Eain suffered a fractured skull. Two days later, he died at the hospital from his injuries. Kuzdzal was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Kuzdzal's defense attorneys appealed the conviction. One of their arguments: two jurors during trial were not questioned about their possible bias. A friend of Kuzdzal's alerted the court and testified that she saw two jurors outside the courthouse talking and describing Kuzdzal as a "scumbag." She also said she saw the two jurors in the jury box making faces and laughing.
But, Judge Christopher Burns decided to not question the jurors, saying it was unnecessary. The appellate division disagrees.
REPORTER: what are your thoughts on the judge?
"I believe he did right, I was there when he questioned the girl and she was not credible at all," Spring said.
In the court's dissenting opinion it says, Kuzdzal's friend had inconsistencies in her testimony. For example, the friend repeatedly stated that she heard the "scumbag comment" while the court was on break. But, the court didn't take a break on the day she said she overheard the conversation.
Legal experts say the district attorney's office could appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals, or the DA's office could go right ahead and schedule a new trial. The DA's office says it is reviewing the decision and evaluating their options. They have a month to respond.