Friday, June 20, 2008

Deadlocked 3-3 over extended prison time for cop shooter

By Randall Beach
Register Staff
— After three days of deliberation, jurors considering whether Arnold Bell should receive extended prison time for shooting police Officer Robert Fumiatti reported they were deadlocked at 3-3 Thursday afternoon and were dismissed by the judge.
The all-female jury sent Superior Court Judge Joseph Licari Jr. a note at about 3:30 p.m., telling him about the deadlock. Licari thanked them for their efforts and sent them home.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Gary Nicholson said afterward, "We expect to see Mr. Bell in court again, and we hope to get a correct outcome next time." He said a new jury might hear the case this fall.
"To me, it did not seem that difficult a decision, in light of his record and what he did here," Nicholson said. "But that’s why we have juries. Obviously, three of them didn’t see it that way."
Defense attorneys William Paetzold and Jeffrey Kestenband had no comment. Two jurors who were approached outside the courthouse also declined to speak.
Fumiatti’s father, Vincent Fumiatti, who attended the trial, said he had no comment on Thursday’s legal events.
The jury was given the task of deciding one question: Whether a period of extended incarceration for Bell would serve the public interest.
Bell, 42, was previously convicted of first-degree assault by another Superior Court jury for shooting Fumiatti in the face during a drug bust in June 2002.
After that verdict, Judge Robert Devlin Jr. sentenced Bell to serve 45 years under the "dangerous felony offender" law. But the state Supreme Court later ruled that it’s up to a jury to decide whether Bell should get the extended sentence. The usual range for first-degree assault is 5 to 20 years.
Fumiatti died in January 2007 of an inflammatory heart disease. A medical examiner determined his death was unrelated to the shooting.
During the recent trial, prosecutors stressed Bell’s extensive criminal record, beginning with a conviction in November 1983 for third-degree robbery.
But defense attorneys countered with character witnesses testifying about Bell’s steady work record at a truck parts distribution center in the months before his arrest for shooting Fumiatti. Jurors also heard from Bell’s 21-year-old daughter, who tearfully said he was a supportive father, even while in prison.
The criteria for jurors in deciding the incarceration question were Bell’s character, history and the nature and circumstances of his criminal conduct.
Bell is already serving a 47-year federal sentence for possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon. He is also appealing that sentence.
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

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