WOODBRIDGE — The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed today to a request by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office to review an appeals court decision overturning the convictions of a Woodbridge man who, in 2008, was found guilty of fatally shooting two men in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the township, Middlesex County Acting Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey announced.
The Supreme Court agreed to the review after Middlesex County Acting Assistant Prosecutor Nancy Hulett filed a petition challenging the decision on Dec. 28, 2012 by the Appellate Division of Superior Court to reverse the murder convictions of Michael Ross II, 30.
In the petition, Hulett asked the high court to uphold the trial court’s decision to bring in an alternate juror and to start deliberations anew, after the initial jury had reported that it was unable to reach a verdict, and then one of the sitting jurors was excused for illness.
Following four more days of deliberations with the alternate juror on the panel, Ross was found guilty on April 29, 2008 of murdering Aleksy Bautin, 26, of the Avenel section of Woodbridge, and Sergey Barashov, 21, of Edison.
During the month-long trial, Middlesex County Acting Assistant Prosecutor Julie Davidson presented evidence and testimony showing Ross fatally shot the men on October 30, 2003 as they sat in a car parked in a lot at the Forest View apartment complex in Woodbridge.
Ross subsequently was sentenced to two life prison terms with no chance of parole for 127 years. He has remained in custody during the appeals process.
In overturning the convictions, the Appellate Division ruled that the trial judge erred when he substituted the alternate juror for the ill juror after the panel said it had reached an impasse.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, in its petition, asked the Supreme Court to consider that the trial court, in its discretion, should be able to substitute one juror for another who has been validly excused, even after the jury has declared itself unable to reach a verdict, provided that the trial court properly instructs the new panel to start its deliberations from the beginning.
No hearing date has been set for the Supreme Court’s review.
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