Mistrial Declared in Etan Patz Child Murder Case - Legal Commentary by Boston Attorney Hank Brennan

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The Etan Patz murder trial recently ended after 18 days of deliberation in a stunning mistrial that seemed an impossibility as the defendant confessed and provided sick, demented, details of the child's last moments of life.

Inside the jury room, where seemingly normal people jockey for power and control, facts often get lost in the play for dominance

Boston legal scholar Attorney Hank Brennan, former Prosecutor for Suffolk and Essex counties, has dealt with his share of juries from voir dire to verdict.As a former prosecutor, Brennan agreed to provide a legal viewpoint from inside the jury room as to some causes of mistrial.

Q. Obviously, the simplest question, how is this possible? Do you think it is the way in which evidence is perceived? The length of time in between crime and trial, how about admissible confessions?

A. There are many causes for a mistrial. Some reasons for a mistrial are based on a fundamental problem with the jury or deliberation process that infects the jury.

For example, if a juror knew a witness in the case and either failed to disclose their knowledge or recognized a witness after the case already began this potential bias could cause a mistrial.

Another reason for a mistrial could be that an outside source infected the jury during deliberation. This type of mistrial would include jurors learning of inadmissible evidence or tampering by a third party.  

The most common cause of a mistrial is the situation that occurred in the Patz case. Although the word mistrial standing alone has a dubious connotation, a mistrial can be based on the simple fact that all jurors could not agree on guilt or innocence. This is not an uncommon phenomenon.

This type of mistrial does not invoke double jeopardy, thus, the prosecution if free to retry the case if they choose to do so.

Sometimes jurors have committed themselves to guilt or innocence before trial. Other times, personal conflicts between jurors can cause one or many jurors refuse to compromise and remain adverse to each other based on personal issues as opposed to the facts of the case. Sometimes reasonable people simply don't agree.  

Q. In this case a single holdout indicated they did not feel there was enough evidence to convict how did eleven people find enough and one not?

A. The lone hold-out juror provided an interview with the New York Post today.  His commentary and opinion was thoughtful, comprehensive, and seemingly sincere. It is not often that a juror will provide such a candid interview so this jurors thoughts actually helps both sides in the event of a retrial.

The defense will better identify what issues a juror may struggle with and the prosecution can isolate the concerning issues and attempt to improve their evidence on those issues.

The division of jurors has no relevance in a re-trial. It is a trap for an inexperienced lawyer to feel comforted by the jury division in their favor or discouraged by a jury division against them. The next jury is a clean slate and there no value to attaching emotion to the juror breakdown.

Q. What are the next options for the prosecutor?

A. Putting aside emotion, the prosecution will appreciate that they have a viable case if virtually every juror sought to commit. In assessing resources available for a re-trial, likelihood of success, relevance of plea bargaining, and whether putting the victim's family through another trial are all issues that have some relevance to the jury break down.

I expect given the circumstances the prosecution will not hesitate to retry the case. Given the extent of the defendant's alleged mental health illness and his age, I do not think a plea bargain to a lower level of murder is beyond reason.

Haute Tease

  • Celebrity Interview: Director Jay Roach Talks on the Making of TRUMBO, Bryan Cranston, Casting and John Goodman

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    TRUMBO, the true story from Director Jay Roach and Bleecker Street Films, has continued to garner praise for its lead Bryan Cranston as the cantankerous blacklisted screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, one of the infamous Hollywood Ten.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Obama, Allies Meet; Syria/Refugees/Counterterror; Election; Rings of Fire; Invictus; Kobe Bryant

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Obama will travel this week to Saudi Arabia, Germany and the United Kingdom continuing to strengthen the global coalition and commitment in the destruction of the Islamic State and firming the support for the reunification of the Ukraine.

     
  • Media Alert: di Rosa and the Northern California Wildfires

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Due to the recent Northern California wildfires, di Rosa Center for Contemporary art is closed until further notice. This includes postponement of all events related to the upcoming exhibition Be Not Still: Living in Uncertain Times.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Trump/Russia Square Off; UK/Russian Nerve Agent; Nat’l Guard at Borders; Syria Unleashes Chemical Weapons

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Donald Trump, in a continuing response to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the assassination attempt of a double agent on British soil, has imposed the harshest sanctions to date against members of Putin's government and inner circle.

     
  • Oceana Coastal Kitchen San Diego Review – Enjoy Alfresco Dining, Pacific Views and Delightful Deep Sea Delicacies

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    While San Diego has no shortage of fantastic restaurants, new to the region’s distinctive dining scene is Oceana Coastal Kitchen, an airy bayside eatery dishing up chef-driven, seafood-centric California cuisine amid sweeping hypnotic waterfront views that’ll keep you returning.

     
  • NYBFW '18 Morilee Presents The Muse Collection By Madeline Gardner – Timeless, Elegant, Beautiful

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Recognized for her beautiful ball gowns and dreamy detailing Madeline Gardner presented a collection full of fun and flirty pieces; Featuring gowns adorned with feathers, corseted bodices, lovely laces and unique floral details.

     
  • Queer/Art/Mentorship Announces Its 2013-2014 Fellowship Winners

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    New York, NY (October 3, 2013) – Queer/Art/Mentorship, the multi-disciplinary, inter-generational arts program that pairs and supports mentorship between emerging and established queer artists in NYC, has announced today its third round of Fellows.

     
  • United Airline Thugs Drag Doctor from Flight (Video)

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A doctor urgently needed at his hospital was pulled from a United Flight in Chicago, grabbed, and picked up from his window seat by security, and dragged through the aisle, pulled by his arms, sustaining cuts and bruises in the removal.

     
  • Beltway Insider:Obama Failed Foreign Policy; Election 2016/Super Tuesday; Scalia Funeral; Ray Charles

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Obama has remained steadfast in his determination, despite continued opposition from Republican congressional leaders, to fulfill his constitutional duties and nominate and seat a Supreme Court Justice to fill the recently vacated seat held by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

     
  • Entertainment Giants Turn to Web Sherriff John Giacobbi to Stop Music Piracy

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    John Giacobbi, Web Sheriff, has worked with the biggest names in entertainment including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Adele, Bryan Adams and the Estate of Michael Jackson in the quest to stop pre-release music leaks, theft and internet piracy.

     
  • Celebrity Real Estate News: Christie Brinkley's Hamptons Home For Sale

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Christie Brinkley, the perennial American Cover Girl, known the world over for her provocative and beautiful blonde tresses and sun kissed looks and of course her Sports Illustrated covers, is selling her fabulous Bridgehampton Long Island Home.

     
  • The Masters Converge on Manhattan

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    New York City is often thought of as the cultural capital of the world and it couldn’t be truer as summer 2013 has brought master artists, from Impressionists to Pop to Punk, into Manhattan’s museums.

 

Login Form