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A Massachusetts Appeals Court judge ruled last week that failure to grant jurors a cigarette break during deliberations did not compromise their guilty verdict in a drug trafficking trial. Geuri Lugo, convicted of trafficking heroin and cocaine in April 2003, argued that Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Richard F. Connon’s “refusal contributed to a quick, or compromised, verdict,” according to court documents. Commonwealth v. Geuri Lugo, No. 03-P-1468 (Mass. App. Ct.). Massachusetts Appeals Court Judge Andre A. Gelinas ruled that the evidence against Lugo was strong in his drug trafficking case and the denial of a cigarette break did not affect the trial outcome. “Lugo has not shown that the trial judge abused his discretion in denying the request or that the denial resulted in a compelled or compromised verdict,” the decision said. “The denial of the jury’s request was well within the discretion of the trial judge. There was no error, much less a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice.” Connon said he has never heard of anyone making a similar appeal. “I’m absolutely surprised the appeals court even took this case,” he said. Grab a smoke-later After returning from a one-hour lunch break at 2 p.m., the jury requested permission for a cigarette break at 2:30 p.m. Because he would have to suspend deliberations and send court officers to accompany the jurors outside while they smoked, the judge denied the request and told the jurors they would end for the day at 3:30 p.m. The jury did not object. Deliberations resumed at 9:30 a.m. the following day and the jury returned a guilty verdict for Lugo about an hour later. Massachusetts trial courts prohibit smoking in any court building, and jurors are not permitted to leave the building from the time they arrive in the morning until the court breaks for the day, Connon said. Jurors are not permitted to smoke during lunch breaks. Lugo’s attorney, Edward J. Abramson of Miami, and Assistant District Attorney Kevin E. Connelly, who represented the commonwealth, were unavailable for comment.

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