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Legal Conflict Leads To New Murder Trial For Aaron Powell

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Aaron Powell confers with his lawyer during his 2014 murder trial. Aaron Powell confers with his lawyer during his 2014 murder trial.

An appellate court has overturned  Aaron Powell's 2014 double murder conviction in the deaths of Mario Masciarelli and his estranged wife Christina Powell,  ordering a new trial after finding a conflict of interest with a juror, who is an attorney.

An attorney working for the same firm representing Powell in a pending divorce action and Powell's parents in a custody battle involving their the defendant's son.

The parties learned the attorney was a partner at a law firm during the first day of jury selection but found no conflict of interest and the potential juror was sworn in that day.

On the next day, according to the Appellate Division Third Judicial Department's decision, this attorney informed Broome County court about her firm's role in the divorce proceedings and custody matter.

"Although we find no error in County Court's refusal to disqualify the juror due to her firm's involvement in the divorce
action, which had concluded (see People v Scott, 16 NY3d 589, 595 [2011]), the same cannot be said of her firm's then ongoing representation of Powell's parents in the custody proceeding (see People v Greenfield, 112 AD3d at 1229)."

The court while noting the "juror did not personally represent Powell's parents, and that the relationship shared by her firm and Powell's family was purely of a professional nature" went on to write that law firm owed Powell's family "a clear and paramount duty to represent their best interests."

Because Powell was convicted after a lengthy trial, the court also found that the "effect of the juror's involvement cannot be said to be remote" because the guilty verdict would inevitably affect the custody proceedings.