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

  • Beltway Insider: Obama/Trickledown Agenda; Students/Journos Murdered; Flint; Killer Winter Storm

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Barack Obama met this week, for last time as he embarks on his end of term duties, with America's Mayors hoping to motivate them to see beyond the chronic challenges that may not present solutions under their term.

     
  • New Year, New You: Seven Ways to Start 2017 Right

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The New Year is upon us and it’s time to re-calibrate our self-care strategies, amp up our health, fitness and overall wellness. This is always a great time to turn to the marketplace for innovations that can ease and expedite our endeavors.

     
  • Ariel Castro Accepts Plea Deal; Sentencing Hearing Scheduled

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held three women captive in his East side residence for over a decade, has accepted a plea deal arrangement sentencing him to life in prison plus 1000 years. 

     
  • HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA - A Howling Good Time!

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, the newest animated feature from Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation, brings to the screen a high flying, magical romantic comedy from Director Genndy Tartakovsky.

     
  • 99 Homes Review – Riveting Performances Captures the Emotions of the Foreclosure Crisis

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    99 Homes, from Broad Green Pictures, presents a stunning portrayal of contemporary life in post-recession America, where decent people, once solid home owners, are suddenly ambushed by a corrupt judicial system as they struggle to save their dying American dream.

     
  • Delphine Eatery & Bar West Hollywood Review - Mediterranean Magnificence

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Next time you are in L.A. and hit West Hollywood to mix, mingle and munch with movers and shakers, then Delphine Eatery & Bar is a must. Housed at the ultra-chic W Hollywood Hotel directly across the street from the Pantages Theatre, this remarkable restaurant dishes up Mediterranean cuisine in a warm, inviting and electric brasserie setting.

     
  • Diamond Rivière Necklace Formerly Owned By Zsa Zsa Gabor At Bonhams New York

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A magnificent diamond rivière necklace formerly owned by Zsa Zsa Gabor – the women who stated she had never met a diamond she didn't like – is up for auction at Bonham's New York this December 4, 2017.

     
  • New Virtual Reality Film 'Ashe '68 VR Experience' To Have World Premiere At The US Open

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Fifty years ago, amid the turmoil of 1968, there was Arthur Ashe, an athlete who parlayed his fame as the first black man to win the US Open tennis championship into a lifetime devoted to fighting injustice. 

     
  • John Dufilho Debut CD, CLIFFFS, Releases Second Single “Portland To Vermont”

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    CLIFFFS, the new project from John Dufilho who is already firmly established on America's music scene through his work with The Deathray Davies and The Apples in Stereo, his newest project, blends Modern Garage with Retro Fuzz Punk for an energetic, infectious sound.  

  • NUIT #1 - An Emotional Journey of Modern Encounters from Award Winning Director Anne Emond

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    NUIT #1, from Canadian director Anne Emond, delves, deep and fast, into contemporary sexual encounters searching beyond the momentary pleasures of quick fix sex into the possibilities of permanency.

     
  • Money News: DOW Jones Roars Closes Up; World Markets Follow

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Dow Jones Industrial market bounced back from a very bad week and, assisted by global markets, managed to calm deeply skittish investors concerned over a long term bear market and another devastating market mauling.    

     
  • Smithsonian Channel Celebrates The 65th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    In a global event, in partnership with the BBC and Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Smithsonian Channel shares the compelling story of the Crown Jewels and the ancient ceremony for which they are used in THE CORONATION.

 

Login Form