A bit of levity at the Selwyn Days trial

Every murder trial, no matter how horrific, has at least one humorously entertaining moment. Such a moment came this morning at the retrial of Selwyn Days, who is being tried for the third time in Westchester County Court in the deaths of Eastchester millionaire Archie Harris and his home healthcare worker Betty Ramcharan.

Stanley Rosen, a spry and wiry nonagenarian, took the stand to offer a time frame in which the killings took place. He was one of the last people to see Harris and Ramcharan alive. He came to adjust his previous testimony that he met with Harris on Nov. 19, 1996. Phone records show he was mistaken and he actually saw Harris and Ramcharan at Harris’ Berkeley Place home on Nov. 18. Prosecutors contend that Days killed the pair between Nov. 18 and Nov. 21, 1996.

When Assistant District Attorney Perry Perrone asked Rosen about how the DA’s office flew him up to New York to testify, this funny exchange took place:

“We provided a hotel room?”

“Yes”

“Meals?”

“If you call it that,” Rosen deadpanned. The entire courtroom cracked up, and a sheepish Perrone smiled and muttered about the county’s budget.

Not letting the moment slide, lead defense lawyer Roberto Finzi promised Rosen he would keep his cross-examination brief, so the DA’s office “can get you home and off the county’s diet.” Finzi bantered a bit with Rosen when asking two DA investigators who flew down to Florida to show Rosen the newly-discovered phone records in March 2010.

“In March?” Finzi said, likely thinking of the weather in Florida at that time. “Beats New York.”

“Sure does,” Rosen said.

Before retiring to Florida, Rosen sold advertising for Martinelli Publications, a chain of 8 weekly papers in southern Westchester, and he met with the cantankerous Harris at his home to discuss a full-page ad Harris wanted to buy in the Eastchester Record. Harris, who had been accused of sexually abusing his last health aide — the defendant’s mother, Stella Days — wanted to publicly offer $500,000 to charity if anyone could offer proof that he ever molested any of his healthcare workers. While he testified previously that he met with Days on Nov. 19, he said phone records now show he met with Harris on Nov. 18.

Jury selection begins in Selwyn Days retrial for 1996 Eastchester slayings

After a winter break, Completely Legal is back with news from the courts of the Lower Hudson Valley.

Today, jury selection began in the retrial of Selwyn Days (left), charged with two counts of murder and related charges for the brutal 1996 slayings of Eastchester millionaire Archie Harris and his home healthcare worker, Betty Ramcharan. The trial was supposed to start in November before acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Holdman. It was postponed and reassigned to Westchester County Judge Barry Warhit. It’s expected to last more than a month.

This will be Days’ third trial for the same crime; the first one in 2003 ended in a hung jury and the second in 2004 ended with a conviction that was overturned in December 2009, after four witnesses came forward and said Days was in North Carolina from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, 1996 — the time frame in which authorities said the killings took place.

Days, a former Mount Vernon resident, is accused of killing at Harris’ Berkley Circle home Nov. 21, 1996. Harris’ body was on a blood-soaked carpet in his bedroom next to a bloody baseball bat; Ramcharan’s was in a bathroom, next to a kitchen knife. Harris’ dog was also found dead.

Days’ mother, Stella, used to work for Harris and had accused Harris of sexually abusing her a few months before the killings. Her son, who has a criminal record, was not arrested until February 2001, when he violated a protection order by going to the home of his ex-girlfriend, who then suggested that police look at him for the killings.

No forensic evidence linked Days to the crime. Prosecutors relied on a taped statement in which Days acknowledged going to Harris’ home to confront him about the alleged abuse and admitted to hitting him with a baseball bat after he used a racial slur, then stabbed him with a kitchen knife, which he used to slash Ramcharan’s throat when she walked in.

A convict who said Selwyn Days admitted in prison to killing Harris and Ramcharan is expected to testify for the prosecution. Days’ alibi witnesses, who prosecutors say have close ties to Stella Days, will testify for the defense.

Days’ appeal is being championed by the Manhattan-based Exoneration Initiative and led by Manhattan defense lawyer Roberto Finzi. They claim Days was coerced into confessing to the crime by detectives who took advantage of his low IQ.