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

  • Death of A Nation Review - A Mid-Term Republican Missile Aimed Right at Democratic Voters

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Death of a Nation, from Pure Flix and D'Souza Media, present a documentary that while interesting uses extreme tactics to drive home foregone conclusions regarding the Democratic candidates that may or may not be factual and true.

     
  • The William Blake Gallery San Francisco Presents: William Blake in Color

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The William Blake Gallery presents William Blake In Color, a selection of plates from the Illuminated Books of William Blake (1951 - 1987) by the Trianon Press for the William Blake Trust. Exhibition Dates: April 22 - July 28, 2017.

     
  • Lladró Presents Niagara Chandelier Gold

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Lladró, the world renowned Spanish porcelain company, presents Niagara Chandelier-Gold, a new version of spectacular Niagara chandelier decorated with golden luster. Over 100 handmade porcelain fairies flutter around this lamp with a diameter of 1.1 meters (31 1/2").

     
  • Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, St. Moritz, Earns Wine Spectator Restaurant Award in 2018

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Le Restaurant has been honoured for its outstanding wine program in Wine Spectator's 2018 Restaurant Awards. The restaurant is recognized among other winners from all over the globe as a top destination for wine lovers.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Trump/Putin Vaca; Mueller’s Grand Jury; North Korea; Minnesota Extremism; Solar Eclipse; Sam Shepard

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Donald Trump has left the building and relocated for a working vacation over the next seventeen days to his Southern Jersey Golf Course, while the White House West Wing undergoes much needed and previously approved renovations.

     
  • Money News: US Markets Gain; World Markets Split; S&P500 Sets New Record

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average as well as the three other top America Indices had nice gains over the past week. Russell 2000, the NASDAQ and S&P500 all had a strong week, gaining enough momentum, in the respectable index to end strong with the DOW remaining above the 17,000 point record set over one month ago.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Die-In Protests Spread; S.I. Cop Racist Background; November Job Report; Sandy Hook

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Obama has remained reluctant to criticize the process which left a white NYPD police officer exonerated in the videotaped murder of an unarmed black man detained for selling loose cigarettes as his Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch prepares the federal inquiry.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Obama Visits Saudi King; ISIS Murders Japanese Hostage; Auschwitz Liberation

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Obama and the global counter-ISIS coalition has seen very little progress in stopping the terror group as a second Japanese citizen is murdered in the latest demands for financial ransom, global recognition and vengeance against United States remain the rhetoric.

     
  • AVATAR Director James Cameron, Producer Jon Landau, Sigourney Weaver Partner with Amazon Watch

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    AVATAR Director James Cameron, Producer Jon Landau and actress Sigourney Weaver have teamed with Amazon Watch to assist the Brazilian based environmental watch dog agency in its fight to stop the construction on sixty dams that will divert the XINGU River.

     
  • Bay Area Musicals Announces 2018-2019 Season Titles Include: Crazy For You, Violet, Hairspray

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Bay Area Musicals (Matthew McCoy, Founder & Artistic Director, and AeJay Mitchell, Managing Director) has announced the show titles for its upcoming fourth season. The 2018-2019 season begins with Tony Award-winning Best Musical CRAZY FOR YOU.

     
  • Brad’s Status Review – A Dour Retrospect With A Few Bright Moments

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Brad's Status, from Plan B and Amazon Studios, presents a dour retrospect of an unfulfilled life, that doesn't measure up to truth and imaginings of his super successful college buddies, who seem to be living their dreams.

     
  • Slenderman Tween Found Incompetent to Stand Trial; Legal Commentary By Whitey Bulger Defense Attorney Hank Brennan

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Morgan Geyser, 12, known as one half of the Slenderman Killers, who stabbed a twelve year old friend 19 times, has been found incompetent to stand trial for her participation in the crimes that shocked this tiny Wisconsin city.

 

Login Form