Jury Duty, Part 9: The Attempted Mistrial

In which a defense lawyer attempts to cause a mistrial

Defendant number 3 is put on the stand by his lawyer. When he is called, a few of the other jurors and I look at each other in surprise, facial expressions basically saying “holy shit, is this the worst lawyer on this planet of Earth or what?”

In case anyone didn’t know (I had only a vague idea of this), you cannot be made to testify at your own trial. This is covered by the 5th amendment:

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

The key passage being:

[No person] shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself

In other words, the defendant didn’t need to take the stand and in fact his NOT taking the stand could not be held against him in any way. Hence, “I please the fifth.”

His lawyer asks some half-assed questions regarding his suggestibility, as his entire premise for defense is that the defendant is weak-willed (his words) and open to suggestion. After about 15 minutes he had no further questions, which I find to be really sad.

The DA questions him pretty hard, and several times objections are sustained. All in all, she questions him for a few hours and is not gentle about it.

Now comes the mistrial. Defense for Defendant 1, the so-called ‘ringleader’ of the trio, starts questioning the witness. During this, he decides to play the video interview from the arrest…all 4 hours of it. When he says this, several members of the jury (myself included) are not thrilled to hear it and get fidgety. We’d already watched (and read, as it is provided with a ~90 page transcript) the interview a few weeks prior, and didn’t really want to sit through it again.

So we sit through 4 hours of the interview (with a few minutes of extra footage that was redacted from the DA’s exhibit of it). Just as we think it’s over, defense grabs his copy of the transcript and starts reading it out loud. He goes through it, pretty much line by line, asking the witness if he recalled giving each answer.

For two days this goes on, as the jury gets more and more restless. At this point I am positing that he is actually attempting to cause a mistrial because he thinks that this witness has hurt HIS case.

And I gotta say, he might have come close to achieving a mistrial had he continued for much longer; we were getting fed up.

Juror 4 is dismissed for a surgery, as the trial has now gone on for more than 3 weeks longer than we were told it’d be, and there is no end in sight. Juror 15 is drawn to take her place and she is visibly not happy about it.


The Jury Duty Saga