Cipriano pleads, jury selection continues for co-defendant

By: Terry Oparka | Farmington Press | Published June 17, 2013

Tucker Cipriano pleaded no contest to a felony murder charge June 17 in Oakland County Circuit Court.

Cipriano, 20, stood charged in the murder of his father, Robert Cipriano, and assault with intent to murder Rose and Salvatore Cipriano, Tucker Cipriano’s mother and brother.

His attorney, Mitchell Ribitwer, declined to comment about the plea.  

Tucker Cipriano was charged along with Mitchell Young in the brutal attack. Although a judge, prosecutor and defense attorney questioned 90 potential jurors in the case of Young, 21, they still have to select a jury out of the 62 people who made the first cut.

Young’s attorney, Michael McCarthy, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Shalina Kumar and Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski asked the potential jurors questions in an effort to gauge how much publicity of the case they had heard or seen.

Young appeared in court June 14 in a suit and tie and waist chain restraints; deputies removed the chains before the proceedings. Young appeared relaxed and at times smiled and laughed with McCarthy.

Some of the potential jurors wept as they answered questions. Three of those questioned the afternoon of June 14 said they personally knew the Cipriano family.

Police and prosecutors say the two men killed Robert Cipriano, 52, and severely injured Rose, then 50, and Salvatore, then 17, inside the Cipriano home April 16 of last year. Police said during the preliminary exam that the attack involved baseball bats. Testimony during the preliminary exam indicated that Tucker Cipriano had broken into the family home, where he was no longer living, twice earlier that evening to get money.

“A lot of people have heard about this case,” Skrzynski said to a potential juror. “It’s perfectly human to hear about something and have an opinion. Can you take that opinion and set it aside and start from scratch? We’re looking for someone who follows the law.”

“I’m not about to tell you this didn’t happen or this isn’t a homicide case,” McCarthy said to a potential juror. “Will you make a decision solely on evidence presented in the trial?”

Kumar repeatedly asked those questioned where they got information on the case — from the radio, newspapers or TV. She also asked if they’d heard reports that a Cipriano family member had asked the Prosecutor’s Office for a plea bargain.

“You understand media reports aren’t always accurate,” Kumar said. “We’re looking for jurors to set (reports) aside and make a decision only on evidence heard in the courtroom.”

One man who said he knew the Cipriano family well, when pressed, admitted to Kumar that he did not believe he would be able to look at photographs that will be used as evidence in the trial. Kumar said she would allow some but not all victim, autopsy and crime-scene photos. Tucker Cipriano’s attorney, Ribitwer, and McCarthy sought to exclude “certain graphic” photos, saying they were unfairly prejudicial.

Kumar told those selected to return June 17 not to discuss the case with anyone and not to make any postings about the matter on Facebook or any other social media.

One potential juror who was excused said he thought the Prosecutor’s Office was grandstanding and should offer plea bargains to spare the Cipriano family members from testifying.

A woman who was questioned, then excused, who said she knew the Cipriano family, wept and said she didn’t think she could bear to hear testimony of Isabella Cipriano, 9, who hid in the home with her brother Tanner, 18, during the murder, according to reports.

“This poor little girl,” she said. “I’m very angry about what I know.”