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LAWYERS' CLAIM MAY DELAY JAMES MURDER SENTENCING; NEWS STORIES PREJUDICED JURY, ATTORNEYS SAY

Barbara James' sentencing Friday for murder may be delayed because her lawyers charged today that jurors apparently sneaked newspaper articles into the jury room.

The articles were there to prejudice the deliberations, her attorneys said.

Joel A. Daniels and Rosemarie A. Wyman said they have asked Erie County Judge John V. Rogowski to set aside Mrs. James' Oct. 12 multiple-murder and attempted murder convictions or grant them a hearing on the jury issue.

Daniels and Mrs. Wyman said that following the conviction, court officials found three Buffalo News articles about the case in the box of legal and medical documents the jury was allowed to review during its daylong deliberations.

In a motion filed with the judge, Daniels and Mrs. Wyman said there is "no reasonable explanation" for The News articles being in the jury material "other than an unauthorized and conscious decision on the part of one or more jurors" to taint the proceedings.

The defense attorneys' request may prompt Rogowski to delay Mrs. James' sentencing for the July 20, 1989, murder of her two daughters and attack on her son, David Gottwald III, court officials said.

Rogowski may order a hearing, if only to confirm that jurors didn't bring the articles with them to court, officials said.

Diane M. LaVallee, the prosecutor in the case, said the district attorney's office won't comment on the defense motion.

Prosecutors have asked Rogowski to impose the maximum-allowable 50-year-to-life term on Mrs. James for the slayings of her daughters, Victoria James, 20 months, and Britanny James, 8 months, in the defendant's Roma Avenue flat.

She also attacked her son, now 10, with a pickax during the incident. A jury rejected her insanity defense in a trial that ran from Sept. 12 to Oct. 12.

The articles in question were a July 20, 1989, account of Mrs. James' arrest; a July 25, 1989, report on the services for her daughters, and a July 2, 1990, story on David Gottwald Jr.'s concerns about having his son testify in court and confront Mrs. James in person. Gottwald is Mrs. James' former husband.

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