Natavia Lowery, who stands accused of killing broker Linda Stein, for whom she worked as a personal assistant, resides in the “punitive segregation” section in Rikers Island because she was found to have thrown liquid at a guard, according to a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Correction. The type of liquid is still under investigation, the spokesperson said. However, the guard was taken to the hospital to be cleaned and have her eyes checked out.
The incident occurred Jan. 2. That same day, following the liquid toss, Lowery was relocated from her longtime cell — where she has spent more than two years — and put in a new one in the harsher “punitive segregation” section. That part, which functions as sort of a jail within a jail, could be Lowery’s home until at least April. While it is, the spokesperson said, she can only leave her cell for an hour of mandated recreation a day, and, say, visits or religious services. Those in the general population at Rikers, meanwhile, are free to leave their cells during daylight hours.
The trial was supposed to begin Monday morning. But just as soon as it started, in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court, Justice Richard Carruthers confusingly sent everybody home because Lowery was wearing an orange jumpsuit.
Today, some of the mystery was cleared up. Inmates are supposed to wear prison garb like orange jumpsuits for pretrial hearings, according to a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Correction. But when the actual trial gets underway — jury selection resumes tomorrow, after a scheduled day off today Street clothes are required, he said.
The thinking is that the sight of a defendant dressed like a convict can negatively influence a pool of jurors, like the kind sitting in court on Monday.
The mix-up was the fault of a Rikers Island official who misread some forms, the spokesperson added. As a result, Lowery, 28, who allegedly murdered Stein in her Fifth Avenue co-op in October 2007, was hauled away with an improper outfit.
Contrary to what has been suggested in postings on TheRealDeal.com, the reason that Lowery was in a jumpsuit had nothing to do with her getting into trouble for stealing, the spokesperson said. In fact, there is no record of any incident of that type involving her in jail, he said.
When jury selection resumes tomorrow in Lowery’s trial, which could last for up to two months, defense lawyers will also be able to address key pretrial issues, like which witnesses can be called.