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Juror faints during gruesome testimony in Westcott trial

Doctor on witness stand able to lend aid

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 12/7/22

The second day of testimony in the murder trial of Matthew Westcott was temporarily put on pause on Tuesday when a juror suffered a fainting spell.

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Juror faints during gruesome testimony in Westcott trial

Doctor on witness stand able to lend aid


UTICA — The second day of testimony in the murder trial of Matthew Westcott was temporarily put on pause on Tuesday when a juror suffered a fainting spell after looking at gruesome photographs of the victim in the emergency room.

The juror was soon revived. The fainting spell occurred while an emergency room doctor was on the stand, and he was able to quickly attend to the juror.

“Fortunately, we literally had an ER doctor on the witness stand at the time,” noted Oneida County Court Judge Robert L. Bauer after the emergency had passed.

“She appears to be well at this juncture,” the judge added.

The juror, the only woman on the panel, was relieved of jury duty and was allowed to go home. She was replaced by one of the alternate jurors, making the jury now 12 men.

The fainting spell occurred while Rome Health Doctor Leonid Burunchenko was looking at photos of shooting victim James Westcott after he was brought to the emergency room. It was Dr. Burenchenko who helped the fainting juror. Testimony on Tuesday focused on the law enforcement and medical personnel who responded to the scene of the shooting on Route 69 in Taberg on Sept. 17, 2021.

Matthew Westcott, age 28, brother to the victim, is charged with one count each of second-degree murder and third-degree possession of a weapon in James Westcott’s death. He faces a maximum of 25 years to life in state prison if found guilty by the jury.

According to testimony on Monday from Edward and Theresa Westcott, the parents of the Westcott brothers, Matthew shot and killed his older brother James at their family home in Taberg after James had made several threats against the family earlier that morning.

Several EMTs and paramedics from AmCare Ambulance and the Taberg Fire Department testified on Tuesday about arriving on the scene and attempting to render aid to James. The medical personnel told the jury that James had suffered a large gunshot wound to his face, but he was still breathing when they arrived and he had a faint pulse.

The rescue workers loaded James into an ambulance and took him to a waiting medical helicopter, but they said he was diverted to Rome Health when he lost his pulse. A device used to simulate CPR was put on James and he was taken to the emergency room, where Dr. Burunchenko was waiting.

Dr. Buruenchenko told the jury they did everything they could to try to revive James and keep him alive, but he ultimately was pronounced dead at the hospital.

“There was no other treatment we could have given him,” the doctor testified, noting that it was very unlikely for James Westcott to have ever survived his injuries, no matter the treatment.

Several New York State Police troopers and investigators also testified on Tuesday about responding to the 911 call of the shooting.

Sgt. Jeffrey Wegrzyn, who was a trooper at the time, told the jury that he was one of the first officers to arrive on the scene. After making sure the shotgun was secure, Wegrzyn took Matthew Westcott into custody.

Wegrzyn testified that he put Matthew Westcott in the back seat of his patrol cruiser and read Matthew his Constitutional Miranda Rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Wegrzyn said Matthew then just started speaking without any other prompting.

“I’m sorry. He was a threat. He threatened everybody. I don’t even (expletive) remember,” Westcott told Wegrzyn at the patrol car, according to Wegrzyn’s testimony.

“He threatened to hurt mom. He threatened to hurt dad. He threatened to beat my head in. It’s an everyday thing,” Westcott continued. Matthew told the trooper that he himself normally keeps himself bottled up, but he blacked out that day and couldn’t remember anything before his father found him with the shotgun.

“I don’t remember getting the gun,” Westcott told the trooper. “I don’t remember loading the gun.”

Wegrzyn testified that Westcott seemed “calm” during this statement, and then seemed to zone out and stare off into space when the trooper tried to ask some questions.

Matthew Westcott was taken back to state police headquarters, where his clothing was secured and pictures of his body were taken as evidence. One state police investigator testified about finding blood stains on Matthew’s clothing. He noted that it would be unlikely for blood to fly backwards at the shooter from a shotgun blast.


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