WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Jurors in the federal conspiracy and cyberstalking case against the widow and children of a man who killed his ex-daughter-in-law at a Delaware courthouse in 2013 ended a second day of deliberations Thursday after asking for several pieces of evidence and clarification of their instructions from the judge.
Jurors were sent home Thursday afternoon after deliberating about 11 hours over two days. They were to reconvene Friday morning.
Former optometrist David Matusiewicz; his mother, Lenore; and his sister, Amy Gonzalez, are being tried on charges involving the death of David’s ex-wife, Christine Belford. They could face life in prison if convicted of cyberstalking resulting in death, a verdict that Justice Department officials believe would be unprecedented.
On Thursday afternoon, jurors asked the judge to clarify certain language in the jury instructions regarding the question of whether the alleged stalking resulted in Belford’s death. The judge planned to answer the jury’s questions on Friday.
Belford and a friend were killed by David’s father, Thomas Matusiewicz, in February 2013 as they arrived for a child support hearing, part of a long court battle over the three daughters Belford had with David Matusiewicz. Thomas Matusiewicz then exchanged gunfire with police before killing himself.
Thursday morning, jurors asked for several pieces of evidence, including a red notebook found in the car driven to the courthouse by Thomas and David Matusiewicz. Prosecutors described the notebook, which contained a purported “hit list” of people who had participated in court proceedings involving Belford and David Matusiewicz, as a “stalking playbook.”
The jury also asked for a copy of a 42-page order in which a Family Court judge terminated David’s parental rights in 2011 while he was serving a federal prison sentence for kidnapping the children and taking them to Central America in 2007. David and Lenore Matusiewicz, who also went to prison, have claimed that they took the children because they were concerned that Belford was abusing and neglecting them.
Defense attorney Edson Bostic objected to giving the entire Family Court order to the jury, saying it contained many harsh descriptions of David Matusiewicz’s character and actions that should not be considered by jurors.
“The information contained in this is extremely prejudicial…. It deprives David Matusiewicz of his right to a fair trial” said Bostic, arguing that the jury should be given only a summary of the Family Court order.
Judge Gerald McHugh Jr. disagreed, saying the entire Family Court order had been introduced into evidence and was the subject of careful redactions and a cautionary instruction to jurors.
Other evidence given to the jury included results of lie detector tests taken and passed by Lenore Matusiewicz and Gonzalez in 2011 regarding allegations that Belford had sexually abused one of the daughters. Jurors were also given a 2011 letter from Lenore Matusiewicz to Belford, and recordings of Belford’s therapy sessions from 2012.
All three defendants are charged with cyberstalking and with conspiracy to engage in interstate stalking and cyberstalking of Belford. Lenore Matusiewicz also is charged with two counts of interstate stalking based on trips to Delaware in 2011 and 2013, while David Matusiewicz faces a single count of interstate stalking for his trip to Delaware for the child support hearing that Belford planned to attend.
Defense attorneys have argued that Thomas Matusiewicz’s relatives knew nothing of his plan to kill Belford, and that David Matusiewicz, who was inside the courthouse at the time, was the target of a rush to judgment because he was “persona non grata” after the 2007 parental kidnapping.
Prosecutors say the defendants did not have to know that Thomas Matusiewicz planned to kill Belford in order to be found guilty, but only that Belford’s death was “reasonably foreseeable” or a “natural consequence” of their actions.
Prosecutors allege that, after the kidnapping, David Matusiewicz conspired with his parents and sister over several years to spy on, torment and stalk his ex-wife, and that the family repeatedly and falsely accused Belford in emails, letters, phone calls and Internet postings of abusing and neglecting the couple’s daughters.
A core element of the stalking campaign, according to prosecutors, was the allegation that Belford had sexually abused the couple’s oldest daughter — a claim that prosecutors say was deliberately false and which was refuted by the girl, now 13, in closed-door testimony.
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