Login Form

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

  • Fox Searchlight Pictures Announces Date Change for ENOUGH SAID

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    "Enough Said" the final film for the late James Gandolfini and starring Julie Louis-Dreyfus, has changed the release date for the romantic comedy according to Fox Searchlight Pictures publicity who announced the modification via email.

     
  • AFI, SAG-AFTRA Meet Obama Challenge; Pledge One Million Hours of Mentorship

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    At the White House Student Film Festival today, President Barack Obama announced that the American Film Institute (AFI) and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have answered his nationwide call to service to mentor aspiring storytellers pursuing careers in the cinematic arts.  

  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: A Sony Pictures Animation Christopher Miller/Phil Lord Film

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the animated version of the classic children’s book previewed recently for select media and followed with a press junket at the world famous Dylan’s Candy Store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

     
  • St. Regis Bora Bora Expands Romance Menu to Celebrate First Year Anniversary Of The Romance Concierge

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Bora Bora - With the one year anniversary of The St. Regis Bora Bora’s Romance Menu, Romance Concierge, and on-site Bridal Boutique just weeks away, guests of the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort can reap the benefits of the expanded Romance Menu offerings which include special themed over-the-top holiday amenities and seductive curated items.

     
  • Scenic Seattle: Touring and Photographing The Emerald City Review – The "Must Have" for Every Visitor

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Scenic Seattle: Touring and Photographing The Emerald City, by Joe Becker, is the authoritative guide to Seattle, Washington, complete with scenic, historic, city, and neighborhood sites and maps, tourist and photography value charts, and suggested itineraries.

     
  • LA 92 Review - Graphic, Brutal, Shocking Footage of LA Riots

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LA 92, the National Geographic documentary, is one of four films that have been released on the Rodney King verdict and subsequent violence that erupted almost immediately and continued over a three-day period in April 1992.

     
  • Barely Lethal Review – Entertaining, Family Fun for All

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Barely Lethal, from RatPac Entertainment and RKO Pictures, brings to the screen a fun, over the top, teen angst dramedy of life and the cataclysmic atomic clash as under the radar super spy lives her dream with Middle America normal family.

Donate Elite

It's the desire at Haute-Lifestyle.com to keep journalism free. Running a business, however, dictates what is now a common dilemma; a paywall, subscription or donation. Thank you for your donation.