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

  • Oceana Coastal Kitchen San Diego Review – Enjoy Alfresco Dining, Pacific Views and Delightful Deep Sea Delicacies

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    While San Diego has no shortage of fantastic restaurants, new to the region’s distinctive dining scene is Oceana Coastal Kitchen, an airy bayside eatery dishing up chef-driven, seafood-centric California cuisine amid sweeping hypnotic waterfront views that’ll keep you returning.

     
  • The Academy Partners With Bamcinématek, Museum Of The Moving Image And Uniondocs In Celebration

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    NEW YORK, NY - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is proud to announce its New York salute to prolific documentarian Les Blank.  Blank, the award-winning American director, producer and cinematographer who died in April, is known for his portraits of American musicians and his unique ability to capture culture through film.

     
  • 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Announces Short Film Selections

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The 2015 Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), presented by AT&T, today announced its lineup of 60 short films, 40 of which are world premieres. The selections were curated from 3076 submissions.  The 14th annual Tribeca Film Festival will take place April 15-26.

     
  • ROSKINO To Launch First Moscow Film Commission

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Russia's cinema promotion body, ROSKINO, is set to announce the creation of the capital's first Moscow Film Commission (MFC). The agency offers filmmakers new streamlined permit, production and marketing services for those looking to shoot in Moscow.  

  • Saban Films Nabs North American Rights to Taran Killam’s “Killing Gunther” Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Saban Films has acquired North American distribution rights to Taran Killam's Killing Gunther, in which he stars alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bobby Moynihan, Hannah Simone, Cobie Smulders, Paul Brittain , Amir Talai, Aaron Yoo, Ryan Gaul and Allison Tolman.  

  • HL Health, Wellness: Thirty Foods to Eat for Healthy Hair and Skin

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Americans spend over $55 billion a year on their appearances, according to a 2014 report on the cosmetics industry. People spend plenty of time and money on hair, clothes and even physical enhancements, such as plastic surgery.  

  • Fox Searchlight Pictures Acquires Director Geremy Jasper’s “PATTI CAKE$”

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley announced today that the company has acquired worldwide distribution rights to first-time writer / director Geremy Jasper's infectious hip hop debut film PATTI CAKE$.