Gigi Jordan in Manhattan Supreme Court in 2010 and Norman Siegel, who has joined her defense team. ()
ALBANY – The Gigi Jordan defense team, which already includes such well-known attorneys as Alan Dershowitz and Ronald Kuby, has brought in veteran civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel as part of a trial team in a long-lingering case that finally could go before a jury by June.
Siegel, the former executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union who formed Siegel, Teitelbaum & Evans two years ago, said the Jordan case will mark the first time he has represented a murder defendant at trial.
Jordan, who has abandoned a novel “altruistic filicide” defense to charges that she killed her 8-year-old son by feeding him a fatal dose of pills, has been incarcerated four years while awaiting trial as her growing team of lawyers battles myriad issues with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Jordan admitted giving her son the pills but said she did so to save him from a lifetime of suffering at the hands of an abusive biological father.
Siegel said the “altruistic filicide” defense Jordan had long asserted is no longer a part of the case but declined to discuss defense strategy further. He said the trial in People v. Jordan, 621-10, could begin by June 23.
Over the past four years, about a dozen lawyers have represented Jordan. About the same number of assistant district attorneys—including at least three who were lead prosecutors—have appeared at various stages.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon, who is presiding over the case, has advised counsel that no more than three attorneys will be allowed at the defense table during trial.
Siegel said he will be at the table along with Earl Ward, a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady and Allan Brenner, a solo practitioner. Co-counsel Dershowitz, Kuby and Michael Dowd will also be on hand and one or more of them may switch places at times with the three lead trial counsel at the defense table, Siegel said.
Siegel said Jordan contacted him. “She asked me to get involved and I went out and interviewed her and I decided I would do it,” he said. “Most of my career has been civil liberty cases, and this is the first murder case I have ever done. But I think the circumstances warrant my participation. I’ve worked with Dershowitz and Kuby, and maybe our styles and personalities are a little bit different, but I think it’s a good team.”
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos is the current lead prosecutor.
During her pretrial detention, Jordan’s team has fought on several fronts, including bringing habeas petitions for her release, and motions to have prosecutors dismissed.
In February, the New York Court of Appeals declined, for a second time, to hear an appeal of the denial of Jordan’s habeas petition. She maintained that her pretrial detention at Rikers Island, now in its 48th month, violates her right to due process. An Appellate Division, First Department, panel denied her petition on Nov. 19, 2013 saying the decision to keep her jailed as a flight risk was within Solomon’s discretion.
The Court of Appeals similarly denied a motion in September 2012 to hear an appeal of the dismissal of her earlier habeas petition. Southern District Judge Katherine Forrest last year denied Jordan’s habeas petition in federal court (NYLJ, Dec. 4, 2013).
In January, Solomon exonerated Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Kerry O’Connell, accused by Jordan’s defense team of allegedly lying to the court, violating court orders and being responsible for or complicit in the destruction of evidence and possibly eavesdropping on privileged communications. Solomon said he found no evidence that O’Connell did anything wrong.
The judge then took the defense team to task for castigating the attorney and suggested it was the defense who was to blame for the delays that have kept the defendant in jail for four years.
Siegel said he is pushing for a prompt trial.
“It is imperative that a trial date be set,” he said. “The accused is entitled to her day in court. This is a cornerstone of our criminal justice system.”