Prosecutors fail to turn over critical evidence in 1990 cold case murder
By Rebecca Rosenberg The New York Post June 12, 2019
Zunilda Rosario, in sunglasses holding green folder, leaves a courtroom where she is being tried for the 1990 murder of drug dealer Juan Deleon.Stephen Yang
Lawyers for a woman charged with the cold case murder of her baby daddy nearly 30 years ago blasted prosecutors Wednesday for not turning over critical evidence.
Defense lawyers Frank Rothman and Adam Konta argued in summations that the district attorney’s office failed to provide a signed statement from a witness before trial that contradicted her testimony on the stand.
Zunilda Rosario is on trial for pumping nine bullets into her drug-dealing boyfriend, Juan Deleon, Feb. 11, 1990, in the lobby of a drug-infested Harlem building.
Assistant DA Erin Tierney told the court Tuesday afternoon that it was an oversight, and as soon as they realized their error, they turned over the sworn statement.
Prosecutors also revealed Wednesday that they failed to turn over three photographs taken by police the night of the slaying, including one of the defendant.
The defense argued in closings that the lapse was another significant blow to the credibility of the witnesses, an unsavory coterie of crack addicts and drug dealers.
Rothman said the prosecution’s star witness couldn’t be trusted. The federal informant wants leniency on a drug and gun case for which he faces up to life in prison, the attorney said.
The informant, who testified under a pseudonym in a sealed courtroom, told jurors he dealt drugs at Trump Tower, and he and Deleon’s crew ran a $2 million-a-month crack-dealing operation, the lawyer added.
Rothman pointed out that another key witness, Jose Carvajal, only agreed to testify in exchange for the DA’s help getting him a green card, and yet another was high on crack during the shooting.
None of the witnesses saw the shooting or the alleged shooter with a gun, and there was a murder in the same lobby just one year earlier, he argued.
Tierney countered in her closing statement that Deleon may have been a crack dealer but his family still deserves justice.
She said Rosario, then 21, gunned down Deleon, 20, after he fathered a son with another woman.
“It’s not a drug execution, it’s a murder by jealousy, by a vengeful and hateful woman,” she said.
The young couple shared two young daughters at the time, and Rosario was angry that he was ignoring them to spend time with his 4-month-old son and new girlfriend, Elizabeth Matos.
“She was banking on the fact that if a drug dealer got shot outside of a drug spot in the early 1990s, no one would really care,” Tierney said.
After the case went cold, Rosario started a new life in Providence, RI, where she worked as a school bus driver, raised her daughters and baked wedding cakes for extra cash.
Meanwhile, Deleon’s family “was suffering every day,” the prosecutor said.
The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations Thursday morning before Justice Michele Rodney in Manhattan Supreme Court.