PORTLAND – The Portland man convicted last month of murdering his onetime friend and roommate is seeking a new trial.

Daudoit Butsitsi, 25, shot Serge Mulongo, 24, six times at their apartment building in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood on Feb. 10, 2010. He faces 25 years to life in prison.

Butsitsi’s court-appointed attorney, Anthony Sineni, says the jury may have been tainted by extraneous prejudicial information in an article in The Portland Press Herald on July 20, the day the jury began its deliberations. He argues that jurors may have read the article about the gun’s link to another crime.

“The article was widely available to the jury on the day that jury deliberations began and the probability that this article had a prejudicial effect on one or more jury members is substantial,” says the motion for a new trial.

The article reported that the gun, a semiautomatic .45-caliber pistol, was linked to the shooting of Darien Richardson. Richardson, 25, was shot by an intruder in her Portland apartment on Jan. 8, 2010. She recovered initially, but died in Miami the next month from a blood clot related to her wound.

In court, while the jury was not present, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese said the gun was linked to a shooting the month before Mulongo’s killing, and that case was an unsolved homicide.

In a telephone interview later that day, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes confirmed that it was the Richardson case.

Sineni wants to interview jurors to determine whether there is a need for a new trial.

Stokes said Thursday that Sineni’s argument assumes the jury was exposed to extraneous prejudicial information. He also said the defense could have requested that the judge ask jurors if they had been exposed to media accounts of the trial.

Justice Andrew Horton did instruct jurors to stay away from news reports about the trial, and not to talk about the trial with anyone.

“It’s all based upon an assumption that the jury was somehow tainted and it somehow violated its instructions,” Stokes said. “And there’s no evidence of that.”

A new trial also is warranted because the state committed prosecutorial misconduct, Sineni says, by giving the media highly prejudicial information about the gun’s connection to the Richardson case when it did.

The final argument in the motion is that Horton shouldn’t have told the jury that Butsitsi refused to answer prosecutors’ questions about where he got the gun. That information, he argues, brought a collateral issue to jurors’ attention by making them aware of proceedings that took place when they were not in the courtroom.

During the trial, Butsitsi refused to say where he got the gun beyond that it was from the home of a friend.

Stokes said prosecutors believe questions about how Butsitsi got the gun were legitimate because he was claiming self-defense.

The prosecution framed the killing as an act of revenge that followed instances of Mulongo disrespecting Butsitsi. The defense maintained that Butsitsi had the gun to protect himself when he went to the building to gather his belongings, and fired when he thought he saw a gun in Mulongo’s hand.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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