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

  • OSCAR Nominees React: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Viola Davis, Jeff Bridges, Mahershala Ali

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    La La Land, the romantic story of two dedicated and determined talents, played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, living in Los Angeles set to music, garnered 14 nominations to become only the third film in history to earn across the board accolades in nearly every category available.

     
  • Disney Twenty-Three Goes Behind The Scenes On The Stunning New Adaptation Of Beauty And The Beast

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Transforming one of the most beloved animated films of all time into a live-action feature, complete with elaborate sets, extravagant costumes, vibrant musical numbers, and dazzling special effects, is no easy task.  

  • Celebrity Interview & Review: Least Among Saints - A Tough and Tender Tearjerker from Martin Papazian

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LEAST AMONG SAINTS, a moving drama of hope and compassion, recently held a private screening and screening for select members of the media, donars and film partners, at the ICM building in Century City, California.

     
  • HL London: New Tunes from The Vellas, Three Dimensional Tanx, Partisan, Hands off Gretel, featuring Lauren Tate

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    From Blue Soap here's a selection of our rock releases covering every genre from psych and indie to grunge. Your support is always hugely appreciated, so as ever please do drop me a line if you'd like to interview or feature any of our artists and I'll make arrangements.  

  • Call Me By Your Name; Lady Bird, Lead 33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominations

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Call Me By Your Name, the erotic story of discovery, officially became the Awards Seasons front runner landing six  Spirit Nominations; Get Out, five; Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, four; Three Billboards, and I, Tonya each secured three.  

  • ICC Recreational Classes: Japanese-American Kitchen Review – Compliments to the Chef (Shefu ni Sanji)

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    International Culinary Center, ICC, located on Broadway and Grand Street in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood is the home to one of the most prestigious culinary programs in the world and occasionally offers recreational classes to home cooks.

     
  • The Academy Presents The 2017 Careers In Film Summit In Los Angeles

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Academy will present its 3rd annual Careers in Film Summit on Saturday, October 14, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The day-long event will provide high school and college students the opportunity to learn about careers in the motion picture industry.

Donate Elite

It's the desire at Haute-Lifestyle.com to keep journalism free. Running a business, however, dictates what is now a common dilemma; a paywall, subscription or donation. Thank you for your donation.