Thor Frey jury deliberations restart after judge answers questions

Jury deliberations restart after judge answers questions

BELVIDERE, N.J. - The jury in Thor Frey's retrial went back to work late Monday morning after the judge in the case answered two legal questions and figured out a way to get them a magnifying glass.

After having the weekend off, the six men and six women on the jury finally restarted their deliberations at about 11:30 a.m. Monday, about two-and-a-half hours later than anticipated, while Judge Ann R. Bartlett, prosecutor Kelly Shelton and defense lawyer Michael Priarone debated the language the judge should use in answering the jury's questions.

The jurors spent about four hours Friday deciding on whether to find Frey guilty a second time of four charges, including felony murder, in connection with the beating and suffocation death of Mary Bostian of Phillipsburg in 2006.

Frey was convicted on all charges in 2009 and given a 40-year sentence, before being granted a new trial in 2011.

The jurors were brought into the courtroom at about 11:15 a.m. to hear Bartlett's answers to their three questions.

First, Bartlett told them they could convict Frey of theft, instead of robbery, even if he wasn't inside Bostian's home. (If the jury would convict Frey of theft instead of robbery, he could not be convicted of felony murder.)

Frey admits he helped Donald O'Grady put a safe with $25,000 in cash and coins stolen from Bostian's home into O'Grady's car in the early morning hours of Aug. 18, 2006. But he maintains he was passed out drunk on the lawn outside Bostian's home while O'Grady was inside.

The jurors' second question dealt with O'Grady. They wanted to know why he was not called as a witness at the retrial, or why a statement from him was not presented.

Officials have gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure the jurors are unaware that Frey is being retried, and as part of their strategy, they have kept testimony about O'Grady to a bare minimum. O'Grady is serving a 50-year sentence for his role in the crime.

In answer to the jury's second question, Judge Bartlett restated the four legal tests required to prove that Frey was O'Grady's accomplice in the robbery, adding that if they find Frey only helped O'Grady to move the safe, they must find him not guilty of robbery.

The judge was unable to specifically meet the jury's final request, for a magnifying glass, but after a 10-minute search, court officials came up with a suitable substitute -- a magnifying strip of plastic.

When Bartlett first asked if a magnifying glass was available, Priarone offered, tongue in cheek, "Your Honor, I'll go down to the drugstore and get one if necessary."

No reason was given why the jurors wanted the magnifying glass.

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