The opening of Selwyn Days’ third murder trial this morning drew observers from media, the District Attorney’s office and the public at large. But one onlooker was barred from watching the proceedings.
Richard Blassberg, self-published author and former editor of the free weekly tabloid The Westchester Guardian, was asked to leave the courtroom because he could be a potential witness. Blassberg assisted Days’ former defense lawyer, Christopher Chan, at Days’ 2003 trial and 2004 retrial. During the first trial, Blassberg passed notes on index cards to Chan; the second trial he sat at the defense table.
Assistant District Attorney Christine O’Connor said Blassberg was a potential rebuttal witness and asked to have him excluded. When Westchester County Judge noted that Blassberg was not on the prosecution’s witness list, she asked for his name to be added. Days’ new defense team took no position on the matter.
Warhit reluctantly told Blassberg he could not watch the trial. Blassberg stood up as Warhit spoke but was prevented from saying anything. “You have no standing in this case,” the judge told him.
Warhit also shut down discussion about his decision to deny an application by the defense to do further testing on the partial DNA evidence found on the handle of the knife used in the killings. Garber said the legal team wanted to find potential matches through CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System, which is a database of DNA gathered through investigation of crimes. While they can’t say to whom the DNA belongs, they can argue it doesn’t belong to Days.
The final bit of pre-trial activity came when an alternate juror was dismissed because he was not a U.S. citizen. The six men and six woman on the racially-diverse jury will spend the next month hearing evidence but not from Days; he is not expected to testify.
The defense is a team of lawyers from the Manhattan law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison which is representing him pro bono. The team is led by attorney Roberto Finzi and includes Nader Hasan and William Clareman and are being assisted by attorney Glenn Garber of the Exoneration Initiative. Assistant District Attorneys Perry Perrone and Christine O’Connor are prosecuting the case.
Photo: Selwyn Days