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Sunday, December 3, 2023


Jurors on Friday returned not guilty verdicts against two defendants charged with the murder of speech pathologist Janet Morgan.
Lestroy Bright, 25, and Bryan Felix, 23, were also found not guilty of first-degree assault in the shooting of Morgan's boyfriend, Paul Hess.
But Bright and Remy Augustin, who had murder charges dismissed in the Morgan murder earlier this week, were each convicted on a dozen other charges relating to several armed robberies preceding the Feb. 24, 1997, attack on Morgan and Hess at Morgan's Estate Belvedere home.
The jury took less than six hours to decide on dozens of counts involving the three defendants. According to a report in The Avis, one of the jurors later told a dispiriting tale of a fearful, distracted panel more concerned with the Christmas holiday than the facts of the case.
The juror told The Avis, "A lot of (jurors) were just saying, 'Let's just say not guilty because it's late' and they didn't want to be put up in a hotel. They were saying, 'Look at the time, people. We have to go, it's Christmas.'"
The juror said others on the nine-woman, three-man panel were also afraid, because the charges included murder. "It's not right," the juror said of the verdict.
The jury was split on three other charges against Bright and Felix in the Morgan incident, including armed robbery, and Chief District Judge Raymond Finch declared a mistrial on those counts.
Bright was found guilty on 13 charges including armed robbery and weapons possession in the robberies of the Off the Wall Bar, Chocolate Barbecue and Sabiba Gift shop. The jury convicted Augustin of 12 charges in the same incidents, including armed robbery and weapons possession. Felix was found guilty of robbery and weapons possession in the Sabiba Gift shop incident.
During the 10-day trial, prosecutors had theorized that Morgan was targeted because robbers knew she had a large amount of cash at her home. Morgan had been rebuilding part of her home that was destroyed in Hurricane Marilyn and had paid construction workers in cash from a Federal Emergency Management Agency loan.
Bright was among those construction workers. He had reportedly confessed to the crime to two witnesses, but defense attorneys attacked the credibility of those witnesses.
The mixed verdict brought noncommittal responses from both lead prosecutor Bruce Marshack and defense attorney Ronald Russell.
Both said, "The jury has spoken."

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