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

  • Gravitas Ventures Acquires The Last Light

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LOS ANGELES, May 14, 2014 – Fox Hill Productions is pleased to announce that Gravitas Ventures has acquired the North American rights to the horror/thriller THE LAST LIGHT.  Written and directed by Andrew Hyatt (The Frozen), the film stars Ed Quinn (Eureka), Edward Furlong (American History X), Jeff Fahey (Planet Terror), Tahyna Tozzi (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Molly Hagan (Election), and Yvonne Zima (Iron Man 3).  Produced by Fox Hill Productions' Seth David Mitchell and Samantha Lusk, THE LAST LIGHT will be available on VOD and iTunes on June 3, 2014.

     
  • Z by Zevarra - The New Name in Plus Size Fashion

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    This has been a long time coming! A plus size brand that is actually worth wearing. It is known plus size women to have a hard time finding a brand that has the sex appeal they deserve. Z by Zevarra is not just a brand it’s a lifestyle. Every woman should exude confidence and be care free of fashion disasters!

     
  • Tribeca Film Festival Review – The Top Ten, an Honorable Mention and Heated Controversy

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    With the 13th Annual Tribeca Film Festival over, awards announced, statistics heralded, staff and volunteers moved on and media left to examine, write and critique the slate of films, what rises to the top is dependent on taste.

     
  • Hollywood Foreign Press Association Announces Nominees for 74th Golden Globes Awards; Nominee Reactions

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) announced the nominees for the upcoming 74th Golden Globe awards to be presented on January 8, 2017. Best Actress Nominee Ruth Negga, Best Actor Nominee Joel Edgerton and Animated Feature Director Nominee Travis Knight, offer reaction statements. Complete list included.

     
  • OJ Simpson Granted Parole in Nevada

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Orenthal James "O.J." Simpson, the former football great, has been granted parole in Nevada where he has served nine years of a thirty-three year sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping in conjunction with theft of sports memorabilia in Las Vegas.

Crime

  • 18 Penn State “Brothers” Arrested in Fraternity Murder

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Eighteen Beta Theta Pi Alpha Upsilon Fraternity brothers at Penn State University, still synonymous with pedophile cover up of football Coach Jerry Sandusky, have been arrested in the shocking hazing death of Timothy Piazza, a freshman pledge, during the annual Rush Week.

     
  • Michael Skakel, Kennedy Cousin, Set To Be Released

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Michael Skakel, nephew to the late Robert F. Kennedy, is set to be released from the Connecticut prison where he has spent the last 11years for the 1975 bludgeoning death of neighbor Martha Moxley.

     
  • NYPD Solve Baby Hope Cold Case

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    NYPD Detectives, for twenty-two years, never rested in the determination to bring justice to a little girl found dead, badly beaten and sexually assaulted, in an ice cooler on the Henry Hudson Parkway.

     
  • Shooting Erupts at LAX Airport; TSA Officer Killed

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A Transportation Security Agency agent was shot and killed when a single suspect opened fire at the Los Angeles International Airport, firing as many as 20 rounds with a high powered assault weapon.

     
  • Three Women Missing a Decade Found Alive

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, three Cleveland, Ohio, women, who had been missing for over a decade, were found alive held captive together, after a stunning escape.

Auto, Yachts, Jets, Real Estate

  • Celebrity Real Estate News: Robert De Niro’s Sprawling West Village Duplex Penthouse Reduced

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Brentmore, New York’s West Village gem, has been home to celebrities for over a half century with the first being Oscar winning actress Celeste Holm. It remains the choice for legends of film, stage, screen and music including Billy Joel, Sting, Annie Leibovitz and Robert De Niro.

     
  • Chris Hemsworth Opts Out of LA; Puts Luxurious Malibu Property On The Market

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Chris Hemsworth, who is best known for his roles in Thor, The Avengers, and Rush, has recently put his luxurious home nestled in the Malibu Hills, surrounded by natural privacy landscaping, on the real estate market.

     
  • Private Telluride Mountain Estate Expected To Sell for $18 Million At Auction

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A private mountain estate centrally located in the heart of world-renowned ski town Telluride will sell to the highest bidder next month as part of Concierge Auctions' "Winter Portfolio" auction sale in New York City.

     
  • Celebrity Real Estate News: Walt Disney's Palm Springs Vacation Home on The Market

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    When Walt and Roy Disney co-founded the Walt Disney Co. in 1920, they had dreams of large success, but likely could not have fathomed becoming the world leader in fantasy, cartoon characters and family film. 

Theatre, Music, Books

  • San Diego Jazz Fest Features Traditional Jazz, Swing, Boogie Woogie, Rockabilly, Gospel, and Ragtime

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    San Diego, California, For Immedite Release - The San Diego Jazz Fest takes place November 26-November 30 and will feature over thirty bands and guest artists from across the U.S. playing for dancing and listening in seven venues.

     
  • Plug Research Releases the Highly Anticipated Coultrains Jungle Mumbo Jumbo Project

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    On April 23rd, appreciators of soul, jazz & beat music alike rejoice as Coultrain releases his long-awaited new project, Jungle Mumbo Jumbo. Perhaps best known for his work as one half of Hawthorne Headhunters (alongside Black Spade), or as the once lead singer of Waajeed's Platinum Pied Pipers - this release marks Train's first proper solo album on a label

     
  • Hollywood Celebrates The 100th Anniversary of Tinseltown’s First Ever Feature Film

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    (HOLLYWOOD, CA., MEDIA ALERT)--- Colossal. Stupendous. Epic. These Hollywood adjectives became clichés long ago. When used to describe the films of Cecil B. DeMille, they are accurate. This producer-director captured a worldwide audience with The King of KingsThe Sign of the Cross, The Greatest Show on Earth; Samson and Delilah, and The Ten Commandments. 

     
  • Adventures on the Queen Mary Review - Stunning, Beautiful, A Must Have

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Adventures on the Queen Mary, by Dave Wooders with James Radford, a book for those who have dreamed of traveling the high seas, in all the style of a bygone era and the opulence of the Queens luxury.

     
  • Celebrities Pay Tribute to Jerry and Elaine Orbach During Launch of Remember How I Love You

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Celebrities, family and friends of the late Jerry and Elaine Orbach gathered recently, at The Snapple Theater Center in Manhattan’s Theater District, to honor them with readings from their newly released book, “Remember How I Love You - Love Letters From An Extraordinary Marriage.”