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LI Man Gets New Trial 20 Years Later Based On Lack Of Working Hearing Aids In Original Trial

FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- After 20 years in prison, a Long Island man is getting a new trial but not because of new evidence.

The convicted killer convinced a federal judge he was deaf during the trial and could not properly hear the proceedings.

The family of victim Gerard Kennedy is outraged.

"You killed two people and you get another trial because you can't hear something? That's crazy," Marion Kennedy, the victim's cousin, said.

Gerry Kennedy, a volunteer Baldwin firefighter, and neighbor Willis Frost -- both carpenters -- were together gunned down in 1998 outside a Baldwin bar.

John Pierotti, of Freeport, was immediately arrested and convicted. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a jury found him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.

But 20 years later, and now in a wheelchair, Pierotti was granted a new trial.

"This isn't just unusual in the lay world. This is unusual in the legal world also," legal expert Marc Gann told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan.

Gann says its the talk of the county. After years of appeals, Pierotti convinced the courts of his right to a new trial, or be set free, based on a lack of working hearing aids.

A federal judge ruled Pierotti was "essentially rendered absent" during his original trial, making it "fundamentally unfair" due to his inability to hear.

"There is, in my view, a significant subjective quality to this claim now. How do we really assess what he can hear or what he could hear at the time this trial was actually taking place?" Gann said.

It's thought the 65-year-old could walk free because many witnesses are now dead and modern jurors may expect DNA, other forensic evidence or even video proof, and there is none.

"It's ridiculous. It's absurd," Marion Kennedy said.

Jurors do not know Pierotti was already convicted.

His attorney will argue that he was attacked first and acted in self-defense.

This time around, Pierotti is wearing hearing aids and headphones.

"Justice for Gerry, justice for Willis, we need justice," Marion Kennedy said.

The Kennedy and Frost families say they believe the convicted killer is faking his impairment.

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