Contempt hearing in Michelle Troconis’ future, fireworks in courtroom on Day 23 of trial

Things got heated on Day 23 of Michelle Troconis’ trial in connection to the disappearance and presumed death of Jennifer Dulos – first in the morning regarding a contempt hearing, then in the afternoon over whether defense witnesses will be able to testify.

Marissa Alter

Feb 17, 2024, 1:24 AM

Updated 63 days ago

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Things got heated on Day 23 of Michelle Troconis’ trial in connection to the disappearance and presumed death of Jennifer Dulos – first in the morning regarding a contempt hearing, then in the afternoon over whether defense witnesses will be able to testify. Both times were outside the presence of the jury.
Friday morning began with the judge deciding the court will hold a contempt hearing for Troconis after the defense rests, so as not to interrupt the trial. Judge Kevin Randolph came to that conclusion after hearing from the prosecution about their investigation into allegations Troconis had sealed court records displayed on her laptop, violating a court order.
“It is amazing that nearly five years after Jennifer Dulos' death, that this defendant still will not let her rest in peace,” Assistant State’s Attorney Sean McGuinness stated.
The prosecution first brought up the concerns Thursday after the proceedings ended. At the time, Supervisory State’s Attorney Michelle Manning said one of Jennifer Dulos’ friends, who was sitting in the gallery, alerted the prosecution to the issue, which they investigated further Thursday evening.
“The defendant absolutely had a sealed report on her computer screen,” McGuinness said.
He also alleged inappropriate conduct by the defendant’s mother, Marisela Arreaza, saying she tapped Troconis on her shoulder to take the report down when she realized the prosecution was going to bring it to the court’s attention.
“Judge, we're asking the defendant’s mother be ejected from the remainder of the proceedings. This is not the first time that we have brought an issue concerning the defendant’s mother to the court's attention,” McGuinness said. “I don't make this request lightly, Judge. I have to say I’ve been practicing law for nearly 15 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever made such a request. But this is beyond the pale.”
The prosecution said earlier in the trial Troconis' mother mouthed things to the jury, which prosecutors addressed in a sidebar conversation with defense attorneys and the judge.
“We did talk to her about the allegations last time. We did not know that she was making any inappropriate movements, gestures, signals in any way. And we have no evidence other than a statement from Jennifer Farber Dulos' friends and family that that in fact occurred,” responded defense attorney Audrey Felsen, who noted how charged the trial has been with lots of emotion in the courtroom. Felsen also added that Troconis didn’t have her laptop in the courtroom Friday.
Randolph said no one will be allowed to have a laptop except attorneys moving forward. He did not remove Troconis' mother from the courtroom but issued a warning to everyone in the gallery. Anyone who attempts to communicate with a witness or juror will be removed immediately. Randolph also cautioned the gallery about showing approval or disapproval for witness testimony.
“What the court is not going to countenance are competing pep rallies like you have in high school—the defendant’s supporters and the state's supporters. This is not high school. The court is not going to become a hallway monitor,” Randolph stated.
Defense attorney Jon Schoenhorn addressed the alleged court violation with reporters at the lunch recess.
“I was cross-examining the FBI agent at the time. I don't know what was shown and or visible or not. The fact that one of the friends of Ms. Dulos claims she knows what it is, that it was the sealed report, is a little bit concerning to me—how one would know that,” Schoenhorn said.
Schoenhorn also pointed out Fotis Dulos was previously accused of having a copy of the sealed report, which was prohibited, that ended up in the possession of his defense attorney, Norm Pattis.
News 12 pressed Schoenhorn if Troconis has the sealed report.
“To my knowledge, she does not have that report. She did not get it from me, let's put it that way. And that's all I can say,” Schoenhorn responded.
Troconis' third interview with state police was the focus of the remainder of the day with former detective John Kimball back on the stand. He told the jury their investigation revealed the evidence didn’t match what Troconis said in her first two interviews, which is what led them to call her back in.
Troconis is accused of plotting with her then-boyfriend, Fotis Dulos, to kill Jennifer Dulos, helping cover up the crime and lying to police. Police believe Fotis Dulos attacked his estranged wife in her garage in New Canaan, then disposed of her body, which has never been found.
Fotis Dulos died by suicide in January 2020 while awaiting trial in the case on charges including murder and kidnapping. Troconis is the first of the remaining defendants to stand trial. She’s pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering, conspiracy to commit evidence tampering and hindering the prosecution.
On Friday, the jury started watching Troconis’ third interview with police, which the prosecution said is close to four hours long.
“Are you ready to admit that you weren’t 100% truthful with us during the first two interviews?” Kimball was seen saying in the interview. “That should be an easy answer.”
“Yes,” Troconis replied.
As the video played, McGuinness repeatedly stopped it to ask Kimball about the changes to Troconis’ statements in the third interview compared to the first two. One inconsistency they focused on was Troconis giving Fotis Dulos an alibi for the morning his estranged wife disappeared.
“Was Fotis there?” detectives asked in the interview.
"No," Troconis said.
“He was not there,” they reiterated. “You did not take a shower with him. That was a lie.”
The jury was also shown surveillance video from May 24, 2019, of vehicle movements in Farmington at the home Troconis shared with Fotis Dulos and another Fore Group property, presumably to refute what Troconis told police. There was also footage of 4 Jefferson Crossing that showed periods of smoke coming from the chimney, suggesting someone was burning something that afternoon and evening.
“Whatever they're trying to claim from a couple of puffs of white smoke at various times on a very windy day, again it's pure speculation,” Schoenhorn said outside the courthouse.
He also told reporters that Troconis had fires going year-round.
“It is something that she did irregularly, and in fact, apparently, and again I don't have personal knowledge of this, in South American culture apparently, having fires in your fireplace is a social activity. It's something one does on a regular basis. But I can't personally attest to that fact,” Schoenhorn said.
The prosecution is expected to rest next week with the defense then starting its case. Witnesses include two memory experts, which Schoenhorn said are the crux of the defense. But the prosecution filed a motion to exclude that testimony, claiming they haven’t gotten enough information on these witnesses to prepare for cross. That led to lots of back and forth and heated arguments between Schoenhorn and McGuinness. The judge sided with the prosecution and said the defense has until midnight to get reports on these experts to the prosecution or those witnesses will be out.
Court resumes Tuesday at 10 a.m. since Monday is a holiday.


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