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

  • The Master and The Slave - Man Verses Machine

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The accelerated development of autonomous cars equipped with an Auto-pilot a few months ago asks about the responsibilities to be assumed in the event of a disaster but also about the place and the influence of the Man in front of the technical progress supposed to second him.

     
  • Mountain & Adventure Film Festival Launches Competition Fest

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Benjamin Oberman, CEO of Film Festival Flix announces the lineup for its maiden voyage of the Mountain and Adventure Film Festival. Oberman, along with Joni Cooper, former Director, Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, will host the first annual Mountain & Adventure Film Festival over an unprecedented 28 days during the month of February.  

  • Sabyasachi Mukherjee Spring Collection - Talkin' About a Revolution

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Sabyasachi Mukherjee, designer of Sabyasachi, made his second appearance at this year's New York IMG Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week previewing his Spring/Summer 2008 Collection to a standing room only audience that erupted with applause as he showcased his designs.

     
  • The Clove Club, London, Scores Highest New Entry Honor

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Clove Club in London has won the Highest New Entry Award in The World's 50 Best Restaurants 2016 global competition, sponsored by John Paul, entering the celebrated and sought after association at Number 26.

     
  • Vintana Restaurant Review: Stellar Vibe and Victuals

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

     

    The Cohn Restaurant Group has done it again. The award-winning company, which now owns and operates 16 restaurants within the San Diego area and Maui, has hit a homerun with Vintana, one of its newer North County venues.

     
  • Cyrille Margarit: An Exhibition of Passion

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Internationally known French artist Cyrille Margarit's newest collection of work premiered to an invitation-only group of art collectors, media representatives, and artists at a cocktail reception held at the Bruno Jamais Supper Club on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

     
  • Four Day Old Baby, Two Toddlers Found Alive Among Ohio Execution Slaughter

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Eight members of a rural Ohio family were found dead, early Friday morning, shot execution style as they lie sleeping, in multiple locations across a small area of Pike County. None of the victims appear to be the shooter.