On September 24, 2019, as a murder trial was coming to a close, the defense called a witness to the stand and asked a question. The witness's one-word answer – "no" – resulted in the presiding judge to declare a mistrial, and the prosecution planned to retry the case later.
However, at a recent hearing, a different judge said that the mistrial should never have happened, and, citing double jeopardy, ruled that the defendant could not be tried again. The murder and illegal use of firearm charges our client was facing were dismissed.
What Led to the Mistrial?
Back in 2007, a 22-year-old man was fatally shot one night. Over 10 years later, the prosecution presented new evidence that resulted in the cold case being reopened. Nearly two years later, the case against our client went to trial.
After the prosecution rested their case, our defense team called a witness to the stand. The man said that he overheard one of the prosecution's witnesses saying that they testified to get something in return from the prosecutors.
We asked our witness whether or not he knew our client, and he responded that he did not. After that, we rested our case.
The next day, however, the prosecution brought in a video showing the witness we had called speaking with and fist-bumping our client in jail. Our opponents argued that this clearly demonstrated that the two men knew each other and had a friendly relationship. The prosecution asked the judge to either strike the witness's testimony or declare a mistrial.
Upon seeing the video, the judge called the witness's testimony from the day before a "bald-faced lie," and, as the prosecution requested, ordered a mistrial.
Why Were the Charges Dismissed?
As mentioned earlier, the prosecution had planned to retry the case. Attorney Scott Ehrenworth stated that this was because they were losing the initial trial and were hoping to present their case in front of a new jury.
During a hearing held early in January of 2020, a different judge heard the case and said that the prosecution would not get a second chance to try it. He stated that, during the initial trial, it was up to the prosecutors to prove to the jury that the witness had lied on the stand, and the previous judge shouldn’t have declared a mistrial. He dismissed the case.
After the hearing, Attorney Ehrenworth told The Virginian-Pilot that, in his 22 years working in the criminal justice system, he had never “seen a judge dismiss charges on the grounds of ‘double jeopardy.’”
If you’ve been charged with a violent crime in Newport News, schedule a free case review with Ehrenworth Law, PLLC by calling us at (757) 663-4477 or contacting us online. We’ll put our over 20 years of experience to work for you.