He Was Convicted Of Strangling His Childhood Friend. Now, He Wants Another Shot At A New Trial

The man convicted of strangling his childhood friend and then dumping her body off a Jersey Shore bridge in 2016 is hoping to get another shot at a trial.

Liam McAtasney, 21, was found guilty in February on all counts — including felony murder, murder and robbery — for killing 19-year-old Sarah Stern at her Neptune City home on Dec. 2, 2016. A jury concluded McAtasney strangled Stern and then stole about $10,000 from her with the help of his roommate and Sarah’s junior prom date, Preston Taylor.

In a 20-page letter to Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Richard English, defense attorney Carlos Diaz-Cobo outlined his reasons as to why McAtasney deserves a new trial. Among the reasons was Diaz-Cobo’s failed attempt to get a mistrial after the infamous “LMAO” juror was dismissed from the panel. She was dismissed after it came to the attention of the judge that she posted a comment on Facebook on an article about the trial, “I’m on this trial lmao (laughing my a** off).”

In an exclusive interview with NJ.com, the juror blamed her sister for going on her Facebook account and posting the comment. However, the news outlet wasn’t able to independently verify that claim. She also said the trial was taking an emotional toll.

“A lot of people kept telling me I looked like (Stern) and everyone involved was my age and so it was a lot to handle,” the juror said. “I started having really vivid nightmares about it and I couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much.”

Diaz-Cobo said in his motion for a new trial that those comments imply she was having discussions about the trial with others, possibly with other jurors on the panel.

“The remainder of her statements show that she was not able to function as an impartial juror,” the motion states.

In a hearing following her dismissal, Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle argued that none of the other jurors had knowledge of what the dismissed juror’s Facebook comment said. Also, Doyle argued, the juror’s comments to NJ.com were made once she was dismissed, so she wasn’t beholden to the rules of the court.

“At that point when you excused her,” Doyle said to English, “whether or not she’s in the media, she’s not a sitting juror anymore.”

McAtasney was scheduled to be sentenced May 24. But that date will now serve as an opportunity for Diaz-Cobo and prosecutors to argue their briefs.

The state was expected to file its response Wednesday.

When asked to comment, Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Decker said, “We are saving our response for court.”

Alex Napoliello may be reached at >anapoliello@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find >NJ.com on Facebook.

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Source : https://www.nj.com/monmouth/2019/05/he-was-convicted-of-strangling-his-childhood-friend-now-he-wants-another-shot-at-a-new-trial.html

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