Entries in Mistrial (8)


Drew Peterson Withdraws Mistrial Request, Wants Jury to Decide Case

Giovanni Rufino/NBC NewsWire(CHICAGO) -- Accused wife-killer Drew Peterson on Wednesday withdrew his third request for a mistrial in his murder case, with his attorneys saying in court that they want a jury to decide the case.

Judge Edward Burmila had stopped court proceedings Tuesday after a prosecutor disregarded his order not to mention a restraining order that Peterson's wife had sought against him, prompting the defense to call for a mistrial for the third time in the three-week-long trial, according to ABC News affiliate WLS-TV.

"There was one thing I told you not to go into and that's exactly what you did," Burmila said Tuesday.

Prosecutor Kathleen Patton apologized for mentioning the order of protection, saying it was her mistake, not that of the state prosecutors.

"I'm sorry," Patton said.  "It's my fault.  I can't believe I did it."

Burmila adjourned court, saying he would return with a decision about the mistrial request Wednesday morning.  Peterson's attorneys, however, arrived at court Wednesday morning and withdrew their request before Burmila ruled, WLS reported.

Former police sergeant Peterson, 58, is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.  Her death was originally declared an accidental drowning after she was found dead in her bathtub.

In 2007, however, Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished, and police exhumed Savio's body as part of the investigation into Stacy's disappearance.  A new report by forensic pathologists found that Savio was murdered, and Peterson was charged with homicide.

Peterson has maintained his innocence in both cases, and he has not been charged in connection to Stacy's disappearance.  

Burmila previously denied two requests for a mistrial based on prosecutorial missteps, both stemming from the prosecution's mention of evidence that had not been cleared yet by Burmila.

Legal wrangling over what evidence the jury is allowed to hear has played a pivotal role in the case against Peterson, as the prosecution tries to prove the murder charge by showing that Peterson intimidated his wife through actions and statements.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Drew Peterson Murder Case: Judge Considers Mistrial Again

Giovanni Rufino/NBC NewsWire(CHICAGO) -- The murder trial of former Illinois cop Drew Peterson may be called a mistrial after the judge overseeing the case blasted prosecutors for ignoring his orders in the courtroom.

Judge Edward Burmila called a recess Tuesday afternoon to consider the request for a mistrial and allow the prosecution to come up with a reason the trial should not be stopped, according to ABC News station WLS. It is the third time in the three-week-long trial that Burmila has considered a mistrial request by the defense.

Peterson, 58, is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her death was originally declared an accidental drowning after she was found dead in her bathtub.

In 2007, however, Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished, and police exhumed Savio's body as part of the investigation into Stacy's disappearance. A new report by forensic pathologists found that Savio was murdered, and Peterson was charged with homicide.

Tuesday prosecutors in the murder case were told by Burmila not to mention a restraining order that Savio once asked for against Peterson.

One of the prosecutors then mentioned the restraining order in court, prompting Burmila to scold her in court.

The prosecutor apologized to the judge following the incident, but the defense called for a mistrial, arguing that the statement would unfairly influence the jury.

The judge will reconvene both sides Tuesday afternoon to hear the prosecution's response to the request for mistrial before making a decision.

Burmila previously denied two requests for mistrial based on prosecutorial missteps, both stemming from the prosecution's mention of evidence that had not been cleared yet by Burmila.

Legal wrangling over what evidence the jury is allowed to hear has played a pivotal role in the case against Peterson, as the prosecution tries to prove the murder charge by showing that Peterson intimidated his wife through actions and statements.

"So far, I think both sides have had good moments and both sides have had some tough moments. It is like any trial. When you get to week three, a little bit of fatigue sets in, so we will have to work through that. I think that the jurors will get a little bit fatigued. So hopefully we can keep it interesting," said Steven Greenberg, one of Peterson's attorneys.

Tuesday's testimony also included statements from a toxicologist who processed tissue samples from Savio during the 2004 and 2007 death investigations. He testified that no drugs or alcohol were found in Savio's system at the time of her death.

Two pathologists were scheduled to take the stand this week for the prosecution. Both of them said Savio's death was a murder when they reexamined the body in the second autopsy. Drew Peterson's attorneys brought in experts to say Savio's original autopsy showed it was accidental.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mistrial Declared in Utah Xanax Defense Case

Hemera/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- A mistrial has been declared in the case of the Utah woman who allegedly hit her husband with her SUV and blamed the anti-anxiety drug Xanax for her actions.

In a dramatic and public incident captured on surveillance video, Brenda White, 36, allegedly chased her estranged husband, Jon White, through a parking garage in her Ford Explorer. She later plowed into a Salt Lake County office building and crashed the vehicle into him.

She was being tried for attempted murder but a mistrial was declared on Friday after her friend told the judge that she'd overheard members of the jury discussing the case as she rode in an elevator with them.

"We certainly pulled the surveillance video from the elevator cameras and that was consistent with what was said by that individual," defense attorney Jason Schatz said.

Jurors are prohibited from discussing the cases they're hearing until deliberations begin.

Jon White called the mistrial "unexpected."

"It doesn't change what happened and we'll continue moving forward," he said in a statement.

Prosecutors are expected to re-try Brenda White soon.  The Whites had been in the middle of a difficult divorce, and she doesn't deny that she was at the wheel of the SUV on April 26, 2006.

She said, though, that she wasn't in her right mind after taking too much Xanax and her actions weren't her fault.

Rare side effects for the drug include outbursts of anger, delusions and even aggressive and bizarre behavior.  But such symptoms are rare.

Brenda White told the court that she had taken a handful of Xanax before heading to the Woodland Towers office building, and had heard her husband on his phone in the parking garage telling someone else that he loved her, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Speaking on the witness stand in her defense on Thursday, she said, "I describe it as I blacked out or something took over my body.  It was not me.  Jon was my husband.  My best friend.  My lover.  I did not want to hurt him or kill him."

Jon White had to have 63 stitches over his legs, arms and face as a result of the incident.

Just hours before the attack, Jon White said, his wife came to his office during lunch and played the song "Angry Johnny" by the singer and songwriter Poe, which includes the lyrics, "I wanna kill you/I wanna blow you away."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Drew Peterson Denied Mistrial Again After Prosecution's Missteps

Giovanni Rufino/NBC NewsWire(JOLIET, Ill.) -- Drew Peterson's attorneys marched into court this morning demanding a mistrial in the murder case against Peterson, alleging that missteps by the prosecution on Tuesday and Wednesday had irreparably tainted the jury.

"It's going to be an unfair trial if you let this go on," a defense attorney told Judge Edward Burmila today. Peterson is charged with killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and making it look like an accident in 2004.

The defense's argument centered on testimony introduced Wednesday by a former neighbor of Peterson's, who said without prompting that a bullet had once been found in Savio's driveway. The prosecution said that they were simply trying to prove that Peterson had intimidated Savio prior to her death, but the defense and Burmila loudly objected to the mention of the bullet, saying that its admissibility had not been discussed in pre-trial motions and was inappropriate.

The defense asked for a mistrial immediately following the testimony about the bullet, but Burmila returned a decision in the afternoon denying the mistrial. Instead, he said he would strike the neighbor's testimony from the court record and allow the defense to keep the cross-examination testimony on the record if they chose. He gave the attorneys Wednesday afternoon to think about it.

Today, attorneys again told Burmila that the prosecution's pattern of mentioning evidence that had not been officially admitted into the trial was irreparably damaging to their client.

Merely throwing out the neighbor's testimony would not "untaint the harm," the attorneys told Burmila.

Burmila, however, denied today's mistrial request. It was the third request for a mistrial in the three-day-old trial.

Today, the trial is expected to get back under way with the prosecution's next witness. They have so far only called Mary and Thomas Pontarelli, neighbors who lived down the street from Savio and were the first to discover her dead in her bathtub.

Savio's death was ruled an accident in 2004, but after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007, police exhumed Savio's body and reexamined it. A new forensic pathologist reported that Savio's death was actually a homicide, and Peterson was charged with murder.

Stacy Peterson, whom Drew had already begun dating while still married to Savio, vanished without a trace and has never been heard from or found.

The case against Drew Peterson is expected to hinge on whether Burmila allows certain evidence, including statements Stacy Peterson made about Savio's death, into court record. Stacy Peterson reportedly told her minister that around the time of Savio's death, Drew came home to their house with women's clothing that did not belong to Stacy.

Savio also made statements to her relatives about Peterson's alleged domestic abuse and threats which the prosecution will try to enter into evidence through hearsay testimony.

The legal wrangling over admissibility seen in the first few days of the trial is expected to continue as the prosecution presents its case. Defense attorney Joel Brodsky has told ABC News that he expects Burmila to dismiss the case after the prosecution rests due to a lack of real evidence tying Peterson to Savio's death.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Drew Peterson Trial Continues Despite Calls for Mistrial

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(JOLIET, Ill.) -- Drew Peterson's murder trial resumed today after the judge considered and then denied a defense request to declare a mistrial.

Judge Edward Burmilia called a recess this morning after the prosecution, in questioning Peterson's former neighbor, introduced controversial evidence. Peterson, 58, is accused of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.

Thomas Pontarelli, who lived down the street from the home Peterson and Savio once shared, said during questioning that Peterson had intimidated Savio in the months before her death while the couple was going through a bitter divorce. He then said that Savio once found a bullet in her driveway, a statement that drew loud objections by the defense and a scolding by Burmilia.

"Are you going to be able to demonstrate the defendant put the bullet on the driveway as a means of intimidation?" Burmilia said immediately after the prosecution's witness mentioned the bullet.

Burmilia and defense attorneys agreed that the mention of the bullet had not been discussed in pre-trial hearings and would taint the jury's perception of Peterson. Burmilia then called for a recess to decide whether the prosecution had warranted a mistrial, but ruled instead this afternoon that the "low-blow" by the prosecution would result in Pontarelli's entire testimony being stricken from the court record.

The defense could keep the cross-examination with Pontarelli on the record if they wanted to, he said.

Prosecutors said they had no intention of misleading the jury and that they were just trying to show that Peterson's wife as well as neighbors may have been intimidated by Peterson.

It was the second time in the two day old trial that defense lawyers have asked for a mistrial.

Pontarelli, who lived down the street from where Savio and Peterson once shared a home, described the night in 2004 when he and his wife entered Savio's home to check on her with Drew Peterson lagging behind them. Pontarelli said he heard his wife, Mary Pontarelli, scream from the upstairs bathroom and ran up to find Savio in a "clean, pristine," tub, noting that there was "no soap scum on the tub" and there were no towels in the bathroom.

Peterson had asked Pontarelli's wife, Mary, for help getting into Savio's home one Monday night in February when he was trying to drop their children off after they spent a weekend in his custody. Mary Pontarelli and Drew Peterson had a locksmith open the front door, and were joined by Thomas Pontarelli when they entered the home to look for Savio.

Pontarelli said that on the night they found Savio, Peterson stepped out into the hall and made a call on his cell phone.

"He said he just found his wife dead in the bath tub and people will think he did it," Pontarelli said in court today.

Savio's 2004 death was initially declared an accident, but when Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished without explanation in 2007, Savio's body was exhumed and reexamined. A new report ruled that Savio had been murdered, and Peterson was charged with homicide.

The two were in the middle of a bitter divorce and Drew had already begun seeing Stacy at the time of Savio's death.

Pontarelli was the second witness called in the trial, following his wife's testimony on Monday in which she described the same night's events.

The testimony was stopped multiple times throughout each witness's time on the stand, as well as throughout opening statements as attorneys from both sides objected, argued, and even called for a mistrial based on the evidence the state was trying to introduce into the case.

The arguments over what the jury will be allowed to hear are expected to play a pivotal role in the case, as the prosecution tries to prove the murder charge by allowing statements Savio and Stacy Peterson made to acquaintances.

Judge Edward Burmilia has said he will rule on each issue as it comes up during trial.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mistrial Declared in Houston Murder-for-Hire Case

Hemera/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- A mistrial was declared Friday in the Houston trial of a man prosecutors say was hired to kill a millionaire's socialite wife.

The trial came to a halt on just the second day of deliberations by the jury which was considering attempted murder charges against Damian Flores. Prosecutors allege that Flores was recruited by Jeffrey Stern and his mistress Michelle Gaiser to kill Stern's wife, Yvonne Stern.

Stern's trial is scheduled for later, but he and his wife have reconciled.

During deliberations, jurors asked to be read back testimonies from socialite Yvonne Stern and a police officer, regarding the lineup from which the accused shooter was identified. The jury was reportedly hung just before 3 p.m. and unable to reach a unanimous decision, according to ABC News affiliate KTRK.

Shortly after, a mistrial was declared. It is not yet known if prosecutors will request a retrial.

Gaiser told the jury how she arranged to have Yvonne Stern murdered in the parking lot of her apartment building. Gaiser said that she gave Flores $15,000 as a down payment on the hit.

Prosecutors painted Flores as a cold-blooded killer.

"Damian Flores doesn't look the part. Damian Flores is the part," attorney for the prosecution Justin Keiter said.

Yvonne Stern testified Monday that when he approached her while she sat in her car she begged Flores for her life, but that he took a few steps away, turned around, and fired through the glass.

"He had the opportunity to not kill her," prosecutor Kari Allen said. "But what did he do? He turned around, he bit his lip and he pulled the trigger."

Gaiser admitted to the jury she told Flores where Stern lived, what type of car she drove and when she would be alone.

In exchange for her dramatic testimony, Gaiser made a deal with prosecutors in which pleading guilty to solicitation of capital murder led to a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Gaiser is also expected to testify against Jeffrey Stern when he stands trial in a few months.

Yvonne Stern had started divorce proceedings, citing adultery, but later changed her mind and reconciled with her husband.

Police say the shooting was the third attempt on Yvonne Stern's life.  Prosecutors are making the case that Stern and his mistress worked hand-in-hand to hire hit men to shoot Yvonne.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Petit Home Invasion Trial Hit with New Mistrial Request

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Lawyers have asked for another mistrial in the death penalty trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky because a supporter of Komisarjevsky's alleged victims approached a juror.

Komisarjevsky, 31, faces 17 counts in the gruesome home invasion case that left the wife and two daughters of Dr. William Petit dead in the smoldering remains of their suburban Connecticut home.

A juror told Judge Jon C. Blue Monday morning that a Petit family supporter talked to him in the security line last week and said "Thank you for what you're doing" as they entered court.

The juror told Blue that the encounter did not have an impact on his ability to serve or to be impartial, but the defense immediately called for a mistrial.

Blue denied their request, but did issue a warning to courtroom spectators that they could not approach jurors for any reason.

Walter C. Bansley, a defense attorney, said that he did not believe Komisarjevsky could get a fair trial. Bansley called the spectator's actions part of a "pattern of intimidation" by Petit supporters.

It's the third time that Komisarjevsky's legal team has asked the court to declare a mistrial. They made the request last week after the Petit family arose en masse and walked out of court before the coroner gave detailed testimony of the autopsy of Petit's 11-year-old daughter Michaela.

It was the second time that the Petit family left the courtroom together before gruesome testimony began.

Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan called the move a "stunt" last week and said it was highly prejudicial to his client. The judge rejected the request last week.

Blue also rejected a mistrial request last month when the judge stopped playing Komisarjevsky's recorded and very detailed confession of what happened in the Petit house because a juror appeared to be having trouble handling the gruesome details.

Komisarjevsky and his accomplice broke into the Petit family home in Cheshire, Conn., in the early morning hours of July 23, 2007.

According to prosecutors and testimony in Hayes' trial, they beat Dr. Petit with a baseball bat and tied him up. They raped and strangled Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48. The two daughters Hayley Petit, 17, and Michaela were tied to their beds for hours and terrorized. Komisarjevsky also admitted to sexually molesting Michaela Petit.

The house was doused with gasoline, including the girl's beds, and the home was set on fire. Dental records had to be used to identify Hawke-Petit's body. Experts have testified that the death of the young girls was likely agonizing. Pictures of the attractive, smiling family torn apart by this vicious crime have saturated Connecticut media for years.

Hayes was convicted last year for his role in the murders and given the death penalty. He is currently on Connecticut's death row.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Judge Declares Mistrial in Roger Clemens Case

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A mistrial has been declared in the perjury case against former baseball star Roger Clemens, just days after the trial began.

The defense complained that prosecutors failed to follow a pretrial ruling to limit information about conversations fellow ballplayer Andy Pettitte had with his wife about the use of human growth hormone. Judge Reggie Walton halted proceedings Thursday, quickly accepted their concerns and declared a mistrial.

Clemens' defense team raised objections to prosecutors showing jurors extended parts of Roger Clemens' testimony on Feb. 13, 2008, which referenced conversations between Pettitte and his wife about use of human growth hormone.

Before a brief recess, Walton admonished prosecutors for not editing down portions of the testimony: "I made a ruling that statements that Mr. Pettitte made to his wife could not be admitted."

"This clearly runs afoul of my pre-trial rulings."  Walton told the prosecutors. "That testimony is not going to be relevant."

A new jury will now be called.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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