Erie County Judge John V. Rogowski postponed indefinitely the sentencing of Barbara James for the murder of her two daughters as he weighed arguments that the jury had been tainted.
The chief prosecutor in Mrs. James' murder trial is challenging the claim of Mrs. James' attorneys that jurors apparently sneaked newspaper articles into the jury room to prejudice the deliberations that ended in her conviction.
The three newspaper articles in question probably fell out of a psychiatric file that was used by her attorneys at the trial and was given to the jurors to consider as part of the evidence, prosecutor Diane M. LaVallee said Thursday.
She said "bold assertions" by Mrs. James' attorneys that one or more of the jurors improperly sneaked photocopies of The Buffalo News articles to other jurors are "mere speculation" and are disputed by a defense psychologist.
Miss LaVallee said Dr. Joseph Liebergall of the county's Forensic Mental Health Service noted that the three articles, which appeared in The News last year and last summer before the trial, probably were from the file he used.
She said she gave Rogowski an affidavit to that effect from Liebergall.
Liebergall's file was turned over to the jury as part of the evidence, Miss LaVallee said.
Rogowski today reserved decision on the complaints about the tainted jury and indefinitely postponed the sentencing of Mrs. James.
Prosecutors are seeking the maximum prison terms of 50 years to life for the slayings as well as the attempted slaying of Mrs. James' son, David Gottwald III, 10, in her Roma Avenue flat.
On Oct. 12, at the end of a five-week trial, a jury rejected Mrs. James' insanity defense and found her guilty as charged.
Defense attorneys Joel A. Daniels and Rosemarie A. Wyman filed a motion, insisting there is "no reasonable explanation" why the three articles were part of court exhibits "other than an unauthorized and conscious decision on the part of one or more jurors" to taint the case.
The three stories were found in the evidence file but not attached to the rest of the Liebergall papers.
Daniels and Mrs. Wyman have asked the judge either to overturn the conviction or order a hearing on the jury misconduct complaint.