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

  • James Beard Foundation Announces Restaurant Design Award Jury and Final Call Dates For Select 2017 Awards Categories

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The James Beard Foundation announced a distinguished panel of jurors to serve as the judging authority for the 2017 Restaurant Design Awards. This panel invites restaurants, architects, interior designers, and graphic designers to submit their projects for consideration for the 2017 Restaurant Design Awards.  

  • Epic Rights and CounterFind Launch Partnership to Combat and Reduce Counterfeit Music Merchandise

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Epic Rights, a leading music merchandising and branding company, announces their official partnership with counterfeit software leader CounterFind to combat counterfeit merchandise and pave the way for online brand protection within the music industry.   

  • The Walt Disney Studios Presents Upcoming Film Slate from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm At D23 Expo 2017

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Walt Disney Studios presents an exclusive look at its unparalleled film slate at D23 Expo 2017 in Anaheim, California, taking place July 14–16 and will include a Celebration of an Animated Classic: The Lion King.  

  • London, Paris Each Hit with Terror Attacks; Sixth Between Nations in last 90 days

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The sixth Terror attack between the United Kingdom and France occurred on the Champs d'Elysees, in Paris, 24 hours after the fifth attack, both car-ram, occurred outside a Mosque in London early Monday morning, killing one.

     
  • Ice Box, Facing Mecca, Witnesses Among Ten Live Action Shorts Advancing In 2017 OSCAR® Race

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 10 live action short films will advance in the voting process for the 90th Academy Awards®.  A record 165 pictures had originally qualified in the category.

Crime

  • Decorated Virginia State Police Trooper Murdered, Two Others Injured, in Random Shooting

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Trooper Chad P. Dermyer, who one year ago was receiving an accommodation from his superiors, was shot and killed at the Richmond Greyhound Station by an ex-con who opened fire, in the crowded terminal, after a brief verbal encounter.  

     
  • Updated: Domestic Violence Ambush Kills One Deputy; Injures Six

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    One Douglas County Sheriff deputy is confirmed dead, four other deputies and two civilians are hospitalized with gunshot wounds resulting from a domestic disturbance call where responding officers were pinned down  wounding the suspect in the early morning exchange.


     
  • Cincinnati Boy, 8, Commits Suicide After School Bullying

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    An eight-year-old Cincinnati boy committed suicide January, 2017, after a bullying incident in the boy’s bathroom at his school left him unconscious for nearly eight minutes. He hung himself with a necktie two days later.

     
  • Victim in South Carolina Police Shooting Owed Child Support

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A South Carolina police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man after a routine traffic stop in which the victim ran as he could not produce insurance or registration papers for the vehicle pulled over for a faulty tail light.

     
  • Five Dallas Police Officers Dead; Seven Others Injured in Peace March Ambush

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Five Dallas Police Officers have died and seven others injured in an ambush as a protest over the recurring use of excessive and deadly force against unarmed African Americans turned violent leaving a city and nation stunned.

Theatre, Music, Books

  • Season of Salt and Honey Review - Charming Depiction of Twists and Turns Life Serves Up

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Season of Salt and Honey, a novel by Hannah Tunnicliffe, is another page turner penned with her skillful artistic strokes adding layers of human emotions intertwining untimely heartache and natural healing process with the magic remedies of culinary creations.

     
  • Plug Research Releases the Highly Anticipated Coultrains Jungle Mumbo Jumbo Project

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    On April 23rd, appreciators of soul, jazz & beat music alike rejoice as Coultrain releases his long-awaited new project, Jungle Mumbo Jumbo. Perhaps best known for his work as one half of Hawthorne Headhunters (alongside Black Spade), or as the once lead singer of Waajeed's Platinum Pied Pipers - this release marks Train's first proper solo album on a label

     
  • Interstellar Soundtrack with Music By Hans Zimmer Out In Time For The Holidays

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    (October 28, 2014 – Los Angeles, CA) WaterTower Music today proudly announces the November 18 release of Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, with music by renowned composer Hans Zimmer, whose career has earned him Grammy, Golden Globe, Classical Brit, Academy, Tony, and American Music Awards.

     
  • Honeymoon In Vegas Review – Go For The Music, Stay For The Elvis Impersonators

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Writing reviews to send out is actually quite difficult for me.  The truth is, I’m a theatre snob, and I’m pretty hard to please.  Without creative geniuses such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Leonard Bernstein, or even Stephen Sondheim, it’s hard for me to give my endorsement.  Not this time.  You will love ‘Honeymoon In Vegas’.

     
  • The Tall Trees of Paris Book Review - An Exquisite, Vibrant, Introduction to The New Parisian Art Scene

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Tall Trees of Paris, a flamboyant coffee table art book from Portland gallery owner and curator, Matt Wagner, introduces readers to the colorful world of Parisian artists from the point of view of the artists themselves.