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DA gets OK to appeal reversal of Kuzdzal verdict

The Erie County District Attorney's Office has received permission to appeal an appellate court's reversal of Matthew W. Kuzdzal's murder conviction.

Prosecutors now are waiting to hear when their appeal will be scheduled and heard, a process that could take several months. The Kuzdzal case was back in State Supreme Court court Wednesday for an update on the status of the murder case, although Kuzdzal refused to appear.

Kuzdzal was convicted in 2014 of second-degree murder and predatory sexual assault in the beating death of Eain Clayton Brooks, 5, the son of Kuzdzal’s girlfriend. The verdict was reversed on appeal in November over a question of how a report of potential juror bias was handled.

In that reversal, the Appellate court, in a 3-2 vote, ruled that Justice Christopher J. Burns should have handled a woman's report of possible juror bias differently. During Kuzdzal's trial, the woman told the defense attorney that she heard two jurors outside of court call Kuzdzal a “scumbag. ” If what she was saying was true, it could have meant the jurors were biased against the defendant.

District Attorney John J. Flynn said he is confident the jury's verdict will be upheld. If not, he said, he and prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable are prepared to retry the case.

"We believe that Judge Burns did nothing wrong," Flynn said.

After Burns interviewed the woman under oath about her complaint, he determined that her story was not credible. He did not interview the jurors.

The three justices who voted to reverse the verdict ruled that Burns also should have questioned the two jurors, to ensure that they weren’t biased. However, they also said that, in their opinion, the guilty verdict was fair.

Flynn noted that nothing in the appellate court's decision disputes the validity of the guilty verdict.

Meanwhile, Kuzdzal, who was sentenced to a prison term of 50 years to life, remains in jail.

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