BELFAST — A mother and stepfather accused of murder in relation to the February 2018 death of the woman’s 10-year-old daughter, are going to be tried separately, according to a June 6 order from Justice Robert Murray.
Sharon Carrillo, 34, and Julio Carrillo, 52, were arrested the day after Sharon’s 10-year-old daughter Marissa Kennedy was found deceased by first responders in the Stockton Springs condo the family then shared. Both were charged with knowing and intentional murder of Marissa after both admitted participating in daily beatings that allegedly went on for months prior to her death.
While both initially told detectives they had both participated in the abuse, both Carrillos were soon pointing at each other as the responsible party.
In February, lawyers for Sharon Carrillo filed a motion to have the trial separated, writing that Julio and Sharon Carrillo’s individual defenses would be highly antagonistic and posed Bruton issues that could not be resolved by having two juries in the room during the trial, as the prosecution requested.
In the end, Justice Murray side with lawyers for Sharon Carrillo, who sought to have Sharon tried separately due to concerns over Bruton issues.
According to the University of North Carolina School of Government:
“Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968), held that a defendant’s confrontation clause rights are violated when a non-testifying codefendant’s confession naming the defendant as a participant in the crime is introduced at their joint trial, even if the jury is instructed to consider the confession only against the defendant.”
In his Order, Justice Murray wrote in part:
“With the evidence expected at trial, the only conceivable solution, in this case, is the use of two separate juries at once, one for each defendant. The Court viewed the issue before it now as whether the use of two juries at once is an effective remedy of the prejudice that would be caused by a joint trial under these circumstances. In short, it is not.”
Murray wrote that while the designation of a joint trial, or in this case a joint trial with dual juries, is built upon the premise of promoting judicial economy, the use of a dual jury under the circumstances of this case “make it apparent to the Court that judicial economy would not be conserved, and its use instead would burden the system to a much greater extent than severing the trials and trying Sharon and Julio separately.”
Several possible issues were taken into consideration when deciding whether or not a joint trial with separate juries would be more economical than separate trials, including the anticipated difficulty of finding the 74 prospective jurors that would need to survive the selection process, a feat already made difficult by the level of media attention the case has received.
The practical issues of having two juries were also discussed, including how each jury would have to be moved in and out of the room at varying points, including opening and closing statements of each defendant. Evidence admissible for one defendant might also cause the juries to be moved out of the room if it were inadmissible to the other defendant, and each jury would be forced to leave the courtroom for extended periods due to “several hours” of recorded interviews.
Potential delays in jury instructions were also discussed, with Justice Murray writing that “given the nature of the evidence expected and how it may come in creates the distinct possibility that all the evidence may be in for one jury and not the other. This would cause delays due to jury instructions.”
Murray wrote that the potential for the need for separate trials would also remain throughout the trial.
“There are other issues the Court can foresee at the start of or during the trial that will eviscerate any judicial economy through the use of a dual-jury procedure. ‘Once a joint trial commences, the presiding justice has a continuing duty to keep a watchful eye over the proceedings and to order a severance if prejudice does appear….’ State v. Anderson, (Me. 1979). If the necessity to sever becomes clear immediately before or during the trial, no notion of judicial economy would be served when all parties involved had prepared for a dual-jury trial.
“In sum, the Court is persuaded that a dual-jury procedure is not the solution to the prejudice that is presented by the Bruton and other evidentiary issues here. It exercises discretion and grants Sharon’s Motion to Sever Trial from the Trial of Julio Carrillo.”
Justice Murray’s Order further noted that the next steps are to “shepherd both defendants to trial so as not to infringe upon their respective speedy trial rights. In large part, since Sharon was the party seeking severance, the case against Julio will be tried first.”
The trial dates and scheduling deadlines which have been established for the joint trial will continue in effect for Julio Carrillo’s solo trial. If Julio is able to resolve his case without the need for trial by June 30, Sharon will be “exposed for trial during the August trial term on the dates previously established.”
If Julio Carrillo is tried in August, Sharon Carrillo’s trial will be during the December trial term.
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org