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

  • Kino Lorber Acquires North American Rights To Tribeca Film Festival Winner “Keep The Change”

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Kino Lorber has acquired all North American rights to the romantic comedy KEEP THE CHANGE, written and directed by Rachel Israel. The film stars newcomers Brandon Polansky (as David) and Samantha Elisofon (as Sarah), and centers on their unexpected encounter and romance.

     
  • Money News: Wall Street, World Markets Fall as Bear Returns

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The DOW Jones Industrial Average, struggled to get up under the heavy losses that refused to let up as this second Monday of fighting off the bear was met with a slow steady uncontrollable decline and finally the week was over, closed for the holiday weekend.

     
  • Actress and Baby Model Kaleah Roundtree - Baby, Oh Baby, Is She a Beautiful Baby

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Kaleah Roundtree, a beautiful two year old actress and baby model, is on the verge of becoming the most sought after African American baby talent since her role model, former Cosby Show actress, Raven Symone.

     
  • NYBFW '18 Morilee Presents The Muse Collection By Madeline Gardner – Timeless, Elegant, Beautiful

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Recognized for her beautiful ball gowns and dreamy detailing Madeline Gardner presented a collection full of fun and flirty pieces; Featuring gowns adorned with feathers, corseted bodices, lovely laces and unique floral details.

     
  • Fake Bake Review: The Miracle of the Perfect Tan in Minutes

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The difference between twenty somethings and thirty something girls, a genuine Sex In the City junkie could recite the differences without hesitating with one of the key differences, of course, baking with oil on the Hamptons Beaches.

     
  • Why Women Are Waiting to Start a Family

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

     

  • Room, Romeo Is Bleeding Named 37th Aspen Filmfest Audience Award Winners

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Aspen Film announced today it's balloted Audience Award winners, one in each narrative and documentary categories, for the 37th Aspen Filmfest, which ran Sept. 25-30 at Paepcke Auditorium and the Isis Theater in Aspen and the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.

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.