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

Crime

  • Ariel Castro Found Hanged to Death in his Cell

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Ariel Castro, the man found guilty of holding three Cleveland women hostage for over a decade and sentence to life plus 1000 years in prison, was found hanged to death in his prison cell.

     
  • LAX Shooter Pleads Not Guilty

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Paul Anthony Ciancia, the accused LAX shooter, has pled not guilty to murdering a TSA Agent and 10 other related federal charges in his second court appearance since the November 1, 2013 shooting.

     
  • Five Dead; Nine Injured in Ft. Lauderdale Airport Shooting

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A lone gunman has been taken into custody at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Florida, Airport after firing multiple shots killing five and injuring nine. Real time tweets from former Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer provided actual, real time, credible information.

     
  • Miami Woman Savagely Beaten Remains Comatose

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Danielle Jones, 23, a Miami, Florida caterer, is clinging to life after she was savagely beaten, bludgeoned, strangled, slashed and left for dead on Valentine's Day, which is also her birthday, by her roommate of one week that she found on Craigslist.

     
  • Colorado Officials Find Remains of 170 People, Including Infant Boy, In Basement

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The remains of 170 individuals who did not receive proper burial or cremation were discovered in the basement of a Montrose, Colorado funeral home after the property was purchased and the new funeral director began renovations.

Theatre, Music, Books

  • HL London: Paul McCartney's LIPA Channels the Spirit of John Peel in Weekly New Music Event

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, co-founded by one of the city's most celebrated sons Paul McCartney, is launching The 2Ube, an eclectic showcase of musical talent from across the north west.

     
  • Andre Mieux A.M.X: World R U Ready

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A.M.X. is a multi-talented R&B artist whose star is rising fast in the music industry with fans starting to take notice of his original sound. A.M.X., also known as Andre Mieux, is a singer, songwriter and music producer who has talent, charm and uniqueness as an artist.

     
  • Blue Man Group Review - Fresh, Fun, Loud and Messy

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    I had seen the famed Blue Man Group Las Vegas show before albeit more than a decade ago. Even so, I recently proceeded to secure tickets to see what has since become a Vegas entertainment staple. I wondered how, or if, this show had evolved so it would seem fresh and new the second time around.

     
  • 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.

     
  • Living A Life That Matters: A Memoir of the Marquis de Lafayette Review – Surprisingly Interesting

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Penned by renowned Civil Rights attorney David M. Weitzman, Living A Life That Matters will not jump off the shelf for the causal bookstore window shopper. The title, the image all suggest an intellectual read reserved for professors, scholars, politicians and the like.