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 Contenders: “Amy" The Brief Existence of A Shining Star

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

     

    Amy celebrates the brief life of one of the greatest voices of Jazz and Soul ever heard, Amy Winehouse. Truthful to her rebel spirit, Amy is a colossal piece of filmmaking - genuinely good and a secure Oscar contender.

     
  • AFI FEST 2017 Presented By Audi Announces Dan Gilroy's Roman J. Israel, Esq. As Special Screening

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The American Film Institute (AFI) today announced that the final version of ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. has been added to the festival's lineup and will screen in the Special Screenings section on Wednesday, November 15, at the TCL Chinese Theatre.  

  • BREAKING: TORSO IDENTIFIED AS MISSING JOURNALIST; Did Kim Wall Encounter a Danish Ted Bundy

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Medical Examiners have positively identified the dismembered torso as that of missing journalist Kim Wall, last seen August 10, 2017 standing in the tower with Danish Inventor Peter Madsen aboard his self-constructed submarine, Nautilus. 

     
  • Celebrity Interviews: OSCARS Spread the Wealth - Gravity Wins Seven; Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years A Slave Each Take Home Three

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The 86th Academy awards, hosted by the incomparable Ellen DeGeneres, provided an evening of surprises, upsets, nostalgia and suspense as the envelope bearing the names of those who for this moment captured the hearts of their peers were opened.

     
  • One Village Entertainment Presents a Double Feature –“In Sickness and In Health” and “To Love and To Cherish”

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LOS ANGELES (Dec. 12, 2013) – One Village Entertainment, an RLJ Entertainment (NASDAQ: RLJE) brand, brings you the double feature of "In Sickness and In Health" and "To Love and To Cherish" on DVD on Jan. 7, 2014. Both directed by Roger Melvin, the films star Chico Benymon (UPN’s “Half & Half”, Ali), Denise Boutte (TBS’s “Meet the Browns”), Golden Brooks (UPN/CW’s “Girlfriends”), Jennifer Freeman (ABC’s “My Wife and Kids,” You Got Served), Mel Jackson (Soul Food) and Tommy Ford (FOX’s “Martin”), In Sickness and In Health / To Love and To Cherish will be available on DVD.

Crime

  • Justice Watch: Cold Case Murder of San Diego Family Solved

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Charles McStay, his wife and two small children disappeared four years ago, vanished is the better word, snatched from their suburban home. Today authorities arrested Charles Merritt, a business colleague, for the four murders.

     
  • New York City Blast Injures 29; Second Device Found

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A powerful homemade bomb placed in a steel garbage unit exploded in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 29, just after 8:30pm Saturday, launching a fireball into the air, blowing out windows, rocking cars and sending residents fleeing.

     
  • Eight Dead, including Six Children, in Texas Home Invasion Mass Murder

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Six children and two adults have been found shot to death, execution style, inside a Harris County, Texas home after a twelve hour standoff that ended after hostage negotiators talked the suspect into surrendering.

     
  • Hannah Anderson Sheds Little Light on Mental State of James DiMaggio

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Hannah Anderson, the teen abducted by James L. DiMaggio, has shed little light on his mental condition witnessed throughout the six day ordeal that began when the family friend tricked her mother into coming to his aid.

     
  • Remains of Two Missing Pulled From Manhattan Gas Explosion Site

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The final two missing from last week’s gas explosion on Manhattan’s Lower East Side have been pulled from the rubble days after an alleged illegal gas tap set off a massive seven alarm inferno that killed two and injured 25.

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.

     
  • After Snowden - Privacy, Secrecy and Security in the Information Age Review – Opens The Floor to Debate

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    In June 2013, Edward Snowden leaked thousands of documents he stole from the National Security Agency (NSA), from several laptop computers, exposing flaws and violations of the Fourth Amendment routinely practiced in the Domestic Surveillance program.

     
  • San Diego Jazz Fest Features Traditional Jazz, Swing, Boogie Woogie, Rockabilly, Gospel, and Ragtime

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    San Diego, California, For Immedite Release - The San Diego Jazz Fest takes place November 26-November 30 and will feature over thirty bands and guest artists from across the U.S. playing for dancing and listening in seven venues.

     
  • Seven Continents Book Review - The World At Your Fingertips

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Seven Continents, from Schiffer Publishing, brings together an unforgettable fifteen year collection of photography amassed through personal travel by Dr. Mohan Bhasker, of unique and remarkable imagery, the expected and the unexpected captures, across each continent.

     
  • The Sword & Scabbard: Thieves and Thugs and the Bloody Massacre in Boston - A Page Turning Thriller

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Sword & Scabbard, from Allen Woods, looks as if it would appeal to Boston’s very tony elite, not until pushing through the labyrinth of technology interruptions does one realizes Woods has created a page turning account of corruption, violence, and a bloody re-revolution massacre.