One day after skipping jury selection at his own murder trial, a man accused of firing the fatal shot in a January 2013 Flanders home invasion returned to the courtroom.
Messiah Booker, 32, informed attorneys and the judge presiding over the case that he would attend the second day of jury selection Wednesday after exercising his right to be absent a day earlier. Mr. Booker again referred to himself as “the beneficiary of the trust” and a “sovereign citizen,” while this time ultimately deciding that he wished to remain in court.
Mr. Booker told Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge John Collins that he believed he was being denied the opportunity to see photographs of his children. The judge said the issue has been in the court receiving photographs and he assured Mr. Booker the pictures would be presented to him if they become available.
Mr. Booker’s concerns delayed the court proceedings for the second straight day, as his attorney, Brendan Ahern of Hauppauge, rushed to his vehicle to get the dress shirt and sweater he had purchased for his client, who then needed time to get dressed before the jury could enter the Riverside courtroom.
Mr. Ahern said outside court that Mr. Booker’s decision to participate in his trial will be day-by-day, as it’s within his rights to not be present at any time.
Judge Collins said Mr. Booker can change his mind about being present at his trial at any point, and if he does so, it might be necessary for the court to show the jury a photograph of him. The judge said he also could legally require Mr. Booker to be present in court, but that’s not something he wants to do.
Mr. Booker is one of four people charged with second-degree murder and first-degree burglary — and the first to stand trial — following the Priscilla Road incident that led to the death of 21-year-old Riverhead High School graduate Demitri Hampton in January 2013.
The last suspect charged in the case, prosecutors said at the time of his October 2015 arrest that Mr. Booker was the one who shot and killed Mr. Hampton during an attempted burglary at the victim’s cousin’s house. The break-in occurred about 3 a.m. when armed masked men broke through the front door of the home, detectives said at the time. Mr. Hampton, who was staying in the house with his girlfriend and his cousin, was shot in the chest during a struggle with the intruders and was later pronounced dead at Peconic Bay Medical Center, police had said.
By lunchtime Wednesday only seven of the 12 members of the jury had been empaneled. Jury selection is expected to continue into Thursday.
Witness testimony in the case is expected to begin next Tuesday, April 25.