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

  • US Markets Struggle; World Markets Fall Sharply

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Dow Jones Industrial struggled throughout the week, laboring as the market limped along throughout the first full week in August cooling the New York Stock Exchange as the DOW attempted to stay above the mid 16,000.

     
  • September 11, 2001 - We Remember

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

     

    Today marks the 14th Anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The reading of the names of the lives lost in the attacks happened this morning at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

     
  • Murder Suspect James DiMaggio Killed in FBI Shootout

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    James Lee DiMaggio, the man suspected of kidnapping Hannah Anderson and murdering her mother and brother has been killed in a shootout with law enforcement officers in the Cascade Mountains of Idaho.

     
  • Bentley Designs Signature Suite at New York’s Iconic St. Regis Hotel

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Bentley Motor and the St. Regis Hotel New York are delighted to announce the debut of a one-of-a-kind hotel suite at the iconic Manhattan landmark, the first hotel suite design collaboration for the luxury lifestyle provider.

     
  • The Pulitzer at 100 Review – Captivating, Informative, Pulitzer’s Most Memorable Moments

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Pulitzer at 100, from First Run Features, presents the story of the Pulitzer Prize, with historical accounts from Joseph Pulitzer's humble beginnings and the prestigious honor his award has become weaving throughout stories from scholars and winners.

Crime

  • Five Dallas Police Officers Dead; Seven Others Injured in Peace March Ambush

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Five Dallas Police Officers have died and seven others injured in an ambush as a protest over the recurring use of excessive and deadly force against unarmed African Americans turned violent leaving a city and nation stunned.

     
  • Breaking News: 13 Dead On Campus; 20 injured in Oregon Mass Shooting

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A lone gunman opened fire on the Umpqua Community College Campus in Roseburg, Oregon this morning killing 13 students and injuring 20 in an all too common scenario that left the shooter “neutralized” and reportedly deceased at the scene.  

  • Justice Watch: Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty in Toddler Torture Murder

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Scott McMillan, the toddler murdered by his mother and her lover of one month, was buried one week ago in a tiny casket supplied by a local mortuary in a graveside service attended by his remaining family members, aunts, uncles, grandmother.  

     
  • Jealousy Alleged Motive in Houston Family Massacre

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A jealous former lover entered the Houston suburb home of his former girlfriend, through an unlocked window Saturday night, and proceeded to restrain and systemically execute every member of the family, including his own biological son.

     
  • People Exclusive: Father of Teen Missing Since 2009 Whom FBI Has Declared Was Held Captive and Murdered: 'I'm Begging Anyone To Help Us Bring Her Home'

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    For seven long years, Chad and Dawn Drexel have waited for news about what happened to their 17-year-old daughter, Brittanee Drexel, who vanished during a spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 2009. 

Theatre, Music, Books

  • Interstellar Soundtrack with Music By Hans Zimmer Out In Time For The Holidays

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    (October 28, 2014 – Los Angeles, CA) WaterTower Music today proudly announces the November 18 release of Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, with music by renowned composer Hans Zimmer, whose career has earned him Grammy, Golden Globe, Classical Brit, Academy, Tony, and American Music Awards.

     
  • Judi Dench's Exits & Entrances: A Celebration Of Shakespeare

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A Shakespearean celebration, with readings by Dame Judi Dench, David Suchet, Emilia Fox and the late Jeffery Dench. Exits and Entrances commemorates the 400th anniversary on April 23rd 2017 of the death of the world's most celebrated playwright William Shakespeare.

     
  • LA Lakers Great Tommy Hawkins Pens Reflections from the Soul

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Tommy Hawkins, former Los Angeles Lakers legend who helped shape the dynasty of today, recently launched his first ever narrative book of poetry.

     
  • The Art Of Discovery - Photographs By WireImage Co-Founder Jeff Vespa

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LOS ANGELES, Ca. USA -  Jeff Vespa, co-founder of the largest entertainment photo agency in the world, WireImage and founder of Verge, will release his first monograph, The Art of Discovery, this October on Rizzoli International Publications.

     
  • 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