Ex-county corrections officer convicted of smuggling tobacco into jail will get new trial

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A former Hudson County corrections officer convicted of official misconduct back in 2017 for smuggling tobacco for inmates at the jail will get a new trial after an appellate court ruled that he did not receive proper counsel or an appropriate review of at least two jurors.

Isakova Sealy. Photo via the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

” … We are not convinced defendant received a fair trial because his request to adjourn the trial to retain new private counsel was summarily denied, and the trial judge thereafter failed to investigate allegations that a juror introduced extraneous information during jury
deliberations,” Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division Judges Allison Accurso, Robert Gilson, and Lisa Rose ruled on December 31st.

Isakova Sealy, 48, has been in custody at the jail he used to work at since March 28th, 2018, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, after a Hudson County jury convicted him of official misconduct on September 12th, 2017.

However, according to the appellate ruling, they felt Sealy was denied proper counsel after a judge “abused her discretion” by arbitrarily deciding his case was too old and incorrectly asserting that he had delayed the trial by changing attorneys several times.

“Initially, we recognize the trial date had been postponed three times within the fifteen-month timeframe following indictment and plea cutoff had been entered nine months before the ultimate trial date,” the ruling explains.

“But, each of those adjournments was made at defense counsel’s request and granted to
accommodate her trial schedule. Unlike defendant, counsel’s clients in those other matters were in custody or their cases were older. Absent from the record is any indication that defendant previously sought to adjourn any of the trial dates to retain new counsel.”

The second issue was regarding jury deliberations, where Juror Number 7 brought it to the judge’s attention that Juror Number 9 had been speaking about having family in law enforcement, as well as that her husband had previously served jail time and had obtained contraband while incarcerated.

In spite of this, the judge denied counsel’s request to conduct a further inquiry into the juror’s remarks, as well as a subsequent application for a mistrial.

The judge rationalized that jurors were allowed to speak about their life experiences during deliberations, though the appellate court ruled that case law does not support that position.

” … The trial judge should have questioned Juror Number Seven as to precisely what
Juror Number Nine related to the jury about her husband’s receipt of ‘things that he wasn’t supposed to’ get in jail before declining to voir dire Juror Number Nine, we are constrained to reverse and remand for a new trial.”

According to the NJ DOC, Sealy’s maximum release date is March 29th of this year.