Judge denies call for mistrial
Louis D. Coleman III’s defense motioned for a mistrial in the federal kidnapping resulting in death case when a medical examiner testified she didn’t believe Jassy Correia was dead when Coleman allegedly dragged her body through his Providence apartment building.
“In short, your honor this is the proverbial trying to unring the bell,” defense attorney David Hoose said, adding it would be hard for the jury to disregard the testimony, even if directed to do so.
Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV denied the mistrial request and instead struck the remark from the record and told the jury to disregard it.
Dr. Jennie Vershvovsky, the Delaware pathologist who performed Correia’s autopsy, was the only witness called to the stand Friday in the trial over the brutal slaying of a young woman taken from outside a Boston club.
Her testimony mainly established that Correia’s cause of death was strangulation, which she said appeared to be by hand, and that the manner of death was homicide. She also spoke about bruising and abrasions she found all over Correia’s body, including a T-shaped bruise on her forehead and on the right side of her head.
Defense attorney David Hoose cross-examined Vershvovsky and established that marks found on Coleman’s forearm and face were consistent with bite marks — though Vershvovsky would not definitively say she thought that’s what they were, defining them instead as “semi-circular abrasions.”
The trial had been continued until Monday because Saylor had tested positive for COVID-19, but he was there in person on Friday, behind a plastic shield and wearing a mask. The jurors and counsel all wore masks.
The trial last convened May 13 and ended on the cliffhanger image of six Delaware state troopers, guns drawn, surrounding the red Buick Regal that Coleman had been driving — and popping the trunk.
Jurors learned Friday that inside the trunk was a black suitcase. Vershvovsky narrated in medical terms as prosecutor Elianna Nuzum presented a series of photographs from the medical examiner’s office, starting with that black suitcase with bright blue piping — which Coleman purchased the day before — on the medical examiner’s table.
The next photo showed the suitcase unzipped, revealing an image so horrific that it made one juror quickly lower her head: a hand poked out of a bloodsoaked hole of the couch cushion cover authorities say they removed from Coleman’s apartment, which in turn was wrapped in a black trash bag.
But it was an image a little later that had one of Correia’s family members walk out of the courtroom for a short break.
It showed Jassy Correia’s body fully removed from the bag. Her 5-foot-6, 119-pound frame folded, knees to chin, and wrapped tightly in silver duct-tape to fit the confines of the suitcase.
The line that made defense call for a mistrial came when Vershvovsky testified that in the video of Coleman dragging Correia’s body — who by this point neither defense or prosecutors had ever indicated was anything other than dead — from his car in the early morning hours of Feb. 24, 2019, Correia didn’t appear to have the same injuries she had seen in the autopsy.