This week in Westchester courts

A pair of sentencings for two men convicted of violent crimes ….

Tomorrow, Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli is scheduled to sentence Kenneth West, who was convicted by a jury of brutally killing Josephine O’Keefe in her Pelham apartment in 1983. West is facing 25 years to life for the cold-case slaying, which was brought to trial by newly-discovered DNA evidence. O’Keefe’s daughter, Sue Hupplesberg, is expected to give a victim’s impact statement at the sentencing.  Click here to read the stories about the jury’s verdict.


Then, on Thursday, after five (!) delays, state Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler may get to hand down his sentence to Tyrone Haywood, convicted of raping two prostitutes who he picked up near the Mount Vernon/Bronx border. Haywood hired a new lawyer for his sentencing, which has caused the matter to be adjourned over and over again. Click here to read about the case, including the conviction of his girlfriend for evidence tampering.


Snow delays closings in West trial

Apparently some jurors in the Kenneth West trial got snowed in and couldn’t make it to the Westchester County Courthouse today. Judge Barbara Zambelli adjourned the case to Wednesday (tomorrow is her calendar day), and the last-minute postponement surprised prosecutors and the defense, who were ready for closing arguments this morning. Also caught by surprise was a certain newspaper reporter who arrived at the courthouse a few minutes late, dashed up the stairs and found a locked, empty courtroom on the second floor.

Cold case homicide trial coming to a close

The prosecution rested yesterday in the double-murder trial of Kenneth West, accused of killing Josephine O’Keefe, a 53-year-old Pelham grandmother in 1983, and June Roberts, a 23-year-old Yonkers woman in 1986, shown in an undated photo here.

Click here to read all about the West case.

West’s attorney, Allan Focarile, put no witnesses on the stand. He will try to convince the jury that the prosecution didn’t prove its DNA-based case and that reasonable doubt demands an acquittal.

Today, the lawyers held a charge conference with Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli in her chambers. O’Keefe’s daughter, Sue Huppelsberg, and her brother, Steve O’Keefe, still came to the county courthouse to keep tabs on the case. Huppelsberg, who lives in Florida, has been in the courtroom every day. She’ll fly back to the Sunshine State this weekend and come back to New York on Monday. Sue is on the right in this photo; that’s her mom on the left.

The jury will hear closing arguments Monday morning and start deliberations immediately afterwards. Zambelli plans to sequester the jury if they can’t reach a verdict by the end of the day.

Discovered DNA delays double murder trial

Deep in the recesses of the Westchester County lab, someone years ago misplaced key evidence in the 1986 strangulation slaying of 23-year-old June Roberts of Yonkers.

A few days ago, someone else found that evidence — namely, a sperm-covered microscope slide  — that could further link ex-convict Kenneth West to her death.

West, 44, was supposed to go on trial last month on murder charges in the deaths of Roberts and of Pelham grandmother Josephine O’Keefe in 1983. But now, the lawyers have to decide if to test the slide, and where to have it tested, because the county lab doesn’t have the equipment to do it.

I’m writing more about this for the weekend, so check on Sunday for the details. Meanwhile, you can read more about the case by clicking here.