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Mike Vandeman is charged (and presumed innocent in court) with six different misdemeanors stemming from incidents with four different victims. Each victim is considered a separate “case” for the jury to consider and they’ll be asked for an independent verdict on each one.
Today, at about 3:30 p.m., the judge granted the defense its motion for a mistrial in all cases.
A mistrial means that everyone regroups and tries again. The court selects a new jury, the lawyers conduct opening arguments again and witnesses take another day off work to testify.
It’s a big do-over, unless the District Attorney decides to drop the charges, which I don’t think they will.
The defense made its argument claiming, essentially, that testimony by one of the witnesses irrevocably prejudiced the jury against Vandeman. I’m choosing not to say who it was or what he said until the proceedings are over, but it was a term and a subject that the defense and prosecution had agreed would be avoided.
Remember yesterday when the prosecution lobbied for the word “victim” to be fair game and the defense made it clear that they would be asking for specific examples when any reference to character was made? This was a violation of one of those clauses. I’m not sure how many total clauses there are, but this one was number 14. Pretty far down the list, but definitely not a technicality.
Which is to say that the witness knew he wasn’t supposed to use the term or talk about it in court, but for whatever reason, he did.
The defense objected immediately, approached the bench to make a motion for a mistrial and the judge dismissed the jury so they wouldn’t be swayed by the discussion of whether or not they had been compromised.
With smaller gaffes they would strike it from the record and ask the jury to disregard what they heard, but you can’t un-hear some things.
With the jury out of the room, there was a frank discussion of the motion and Judge Morris made it clear that while he was inclined to grant the mistrial for the case under discussion while the witness was on the stand, he would likely not grant it for any of the other charges.
At this point, prosecutor Chris Cabanero asked for a few minutes to go talk with his superiors in the DA’s office about how they wanted to respond to the motion. Did they want to abandon one of the charges (although they would have the option to prosecute the single charge later) and hope that the others stuck, or agree to the motion for mistrial and go through the entire jury selection and voir dire process again.
Tedium, it seems, doesn’t factor into many decisions at the DA’s office, because they agreed to the mistrial. Or I assume they did. During the break Cabanero requested, I went outside the courtroom to get a drink and unbeknownst to me, when the jury leaves at the end of the day the courtroom locks. I was stuck outside in the hallway when the decision was made, but when I got back in, I was able to ask the judge and the clerk what happened. They didn’t know when the trial would be rescheduled, especially since there is another pending trial to hear first.
Everyone involved with the case will reconvene at 9:30 tomorrow morning to officially dismiss the jury, at which point there may be more answers.
In other developments, it turns out that the bailiff in the courtroom, who still searches my backpack every time I leave and come back and makes sure my battery is nowhere near my phone, reads Mountain Bike Action (and so, I assume, mountain bikes). When he learned that I write about the sport, he asked, did I know what happened to Richard Cunningham, the editor-at-large at MBA? He disappeared from the magazine a couple of months ago.
R.C. if you’re out there and this finds its way to you, there’s a massive man that doesn’t smile wondering if you’re OK.
Chime in on the comments but please keep it civil. Caught a mistake? No doubt, this is going up fast and loose. Please let me know about it.
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