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Gazette Premium Content Judge dismisses Nozolino juror for dozing, urges prosecutor to 'get to the point'

By Lance Benzel Updated: February 14, 2014 at 5:03 am

A juror allegedly guilty of dozing on the job has been dismissed.

A 20-year-old Colorado Springs woman was given the boot Thursday from the panel that will decide the fate of suspected sniper-shooter Bruce J. Nozolino after a judge told her that he again caught her sleeping in the jury box.

The decision by Judge Victor I. Reyes comes roughly two weeks after he adjourned court two hours early when the same woman, whose name is being withheld, appeared to close her eyes during much of a witness's testimony.

The judge cleared the courtroom of all observers Thursday before cutting her loose.

During a brief interview with The Gazette on her way out of the courthouse, the woman denied she was asleep, saying she was closing her eyes to stave off nausea and other side effects of medication she takes for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The woman said she normally uses medical marijuana to treat those complications, but was abstaining in an effort to stay sharp for the trial.

"I didn't want to be high," she told the newspaper.

Her departure leaves a panel of 12 jurors and three alternates.

The issue resurfaced on a day filled with minute details about fruitless police searches and long sequences of photographs that had Judge Reyes complaining about the "hundreds" of exhibits being presented to jurors.

"We're sitting here and it's kind of like: get to the point," he said with an edge in his voice.

Among the most substantive testimony was from a handwriting expert who told jurors that it was "probable" that Nozolino, 52, is the person who mailed a threat letter warning employees of wounded divorce lawyer John Ciccolella that they could be next if they continued working for him.

Richard Lewis, who specializes in handwriting identification and comparison, told the jury that whoever wrote the note used an opposite hand and might have intentionally misspelled words to throw investigators.

He pointed out similarities between the threat letter and samples obtained by Nozolino under court order, while also detailing difference in how some letters were formed.

Lewis acknowledged under cross-examination that on a gradient scale used by handwriting experts, a "probable" finding is one step away from "undetermined," the same finding reached by a previous analysis by a Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent.

A crime scene investigator testified that he found a list in Nozolino's home containing the names and personal addresses of police officers.

The trial - now in its fifth week of testimony - has been steeped in witnesses detailing what Judge Reyes has referred to as Nozolino's "obsession" with players in his acrimonious divorce, as well as a long history of aggressive, vindictive behavior. So far, however, forensic evidence has been limited and heavily disputed by the defense.

Lead prosecutor Donna Billek responded icily to the judge's criticism, saying the day's evidence was important in part to head off questions by the defense about whether police did their "due diligence" in testing weapons owned by Nozolino.

"I can just hear it," an obviously frustrated Billek snapped in response. "'Well, ladies and gentleman, what about all the others?'"

"It's kind of an, 'I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't,'" she added, her face flushed.

The judge has previously advised attorneys to "chill," saying that tempers were flaring in court after such a long trial.

Opening statements in Nozolino's trial were Jan. 14 and prosecutors are now detailing the investigation surrounding the fourth and final shooting for which Nozolino is accused.

The defense has said in previous comments to the court that it anticipates putting on its own witnesses beginning Feb. 21.

Nozolino, a former Lockheed Martin software engineer, is accused of murder and other charges in a 2008 slaying and three earlier shootings prosecutors tie to an ugly divorce.

It's not unheard of for jurors to be kicked off juries for violating rules, as when a woman was dismissed from a 2012 trial involving convicted child molester and former Colorado Springs police officer Joshua Carrier, who is now serving 70 years to life behind bars.

In that case, however, a judge addressed the issue in front of the gallery and did not clear the courtroom as Reyes did on Thursday.

Testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

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