Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Sleeping juror prompts early recess in Nozolino sniper trial

By LANCE BENZEL The Gazette - Updated: January 23, 2014 at 6:29 pm

The jury at the trial of accused sniper shooter Bruce J. Nozolino was sent home two hours early Thursday after a juror repeatedly fell asleep.

"This has not been the most titillating evidence," presiding judge Victor I. Reyes said while describing how the panelist, a woman in her 20s, nodded off throughout the day and especially after lunch, when she appeared to miss much of a witness's testimony.

The judge made the decision to adjourn about 3 p.m., within 10 minutes of ordering the courtroom cleared to discuss the issue with attorneys.

Although Reyes raised the possibility of dismissing her from the panel during earlier comments in open court, a clerk said all 12 jurors and three alternates will be present when the trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Six days of testimony into what is expected to be a two-month trial, Reyes has already signaled impatience over the pace of the proceedings.

On Thursday, Reyes again asked prosecutors to limit the number of exhibits they introduce, admonishing them against "heaping"

documentation on jurors where he said a quick exchange with a witness would suffice.

"You don't want to start losing the forest for the trees," Reyes said, before warning that he would exercise his authority to limit trial exhibits if he deemed it necessary.

Prosecutors are building what is so far shaping up to be a circumstantial case against Nozolino, a former Lockheed Martin software engineer they say shot at people involved in his 2000 divorce - allegedly killing his ex-wife's former lover in 2008, wounding her divorce lawyer in the eye in 2002, and firing into the homes of the lawyer and a judge in 2001.

Earlier Thursday, prosecutors called to the stand William Otto, a Colorado Springs attorney who served as a court-appointed "special master" during the divorce - a kind of third-party referee who holds hearings and makes recommendations to a judge.

Charged with determining how to fairly split up the couple's assets, Otto said Nozolino put a self-serving spin on "equitable division of property."

"Mr. Nozolino's position was what's mine is mine, and what's ours is mine," he said.

He said Nozolino fought "every" recommendation he made and rejected proposals that were in both sides' interests, such as using the couple's marital assets to pay a federal tax bill in order to avoid a penalty and interest.

Rather than accept his findings, Nozolino accused of him of being in league with his ex-wife's attorney and filed motions asking for sanctions against him, Otto said.

Otto ended up recommending that Beverly Nozolino be awarded 53 percent of the couple's $430,000 in shared assets, after finding that Nozolino had ratcheted up her legal fees with baseless claims.

Although Nozolino held his wife to what Otto termed an "illogical" standard, he was more forgiving when it came to his own misdeeds, Otto said.

After scrawling a foul name in permanent ink on the back of a water color painting then-Air Force Maj. Beverly Nozolino received as a parting gift from the Air Force Academy, Nozolino offered a brisk apology at a court hearing and considered the matter settled, Otto said.

"Because he apologized, he was to be forgiven," he said. "There was nothing Mrs. Nozolino had ever done to be forgiven. It was etched into the marble against her."

Otto said that while Nozolino's fiery allegations against him jeopardized his reputation, Nozolino did not physically threaten him.

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