Top Stories 2017: Abrupt ending to murder trial

The defendant in a fatal 2013 Flanders home invasion accepted a plea agreement two weeks into his murder trial after his attorney learned that a prosecutor had failed to turn over more than 100 pages of notes related to the investigations — including evidence that others had confessed to the killing.

Rather than allow the trial to proceed further and risk losing a conviction, the district attorney’s office offered Messiah Booker a plea deal, which he accepted. Mr. Booker is now serving five years on a reduced charge of second-degree burglary related to the Jan. 27, 2013, shooting of 21-year-old Demitri Hampton. The second-degree murder charge Mr. Booker previously faced, which carried a possible life sentence, was dismissed.

Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge John Collins said in court that it was apparent there was “serious misconduct in the prosecution of [Mr. Booker].”

Mr. Hampton’s mother, Juanita Trent, sobbed as she left the Riverhead courtroom that afternoon, escorted by her other son, Jamal Davis.

“My heart is broken,” Ms. Trent wrote in a handwritten statement to the News-Review after learning of the plea deal.

Robert Clifford, a spokesman for former District Attorney Thomas Spota, immediately issued a statement calling the conduct of the prosecutor, Glenn Kurtzrock, “inexcusable.”

The district attorney, who would later resign himself after being arrested for misconduct in an unrelated case, asked for Mr. Kurtzrock’s immediate resignation and he complied. He is now working as a criminal defense lawyer.

Three co-defendants, who were to be tried separately, also accepted plea deals and will each serve between three and eight years in prison. Like Mr. Booker, they too had at one time faced possible life sentences.

Photo caption: Ms. Trent and Mr. Davis sit on a bench dedicated in Demitri’s honor by Suffolk County Community College. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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