The cornerstone of the criminal justice system is a fair trial. Everyone in Minnesota who is facing criminal charges should only be convicted on evidence presented at trial, not because the charges are disturbing or because a member of the jury has a “feeling” about the defendant. There are numerous rules and regulations about how members of the jury and other parties must act while a case is going on, and if someone doesn’t follow those rules, there is a risk that the trial will no longer be fair.
If a jury member can no longer be relied upon to make an unbiased decision, the case should be declared a mistrial.
For a young man accused of robbing a restaurant last year, the judge presiding over his trial declared a mistrial after the father of the employee who was working during the robbery admitted to giving a member of the jury a ride home. The father insists that they did not talk about the trial during the ride, but this clearly was not allowable. At risk that the jury member had been tampered with, the judge had little option but to cancel the trial and reschedule for a later date.
Although having a case declared a mistrial does not mean that the defendant is free to go, it does mean that he will have a better chance at a fair trial. Now he and his criminal defense attorney will only need to argue that prosecutors have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he robbed and shot a restaurant worker.
Source: al.com, “Victim’s father in Huntsville robbery/shooting gives juror a ride home, judge declares mistrial,” Nicole Emmett, Aug. 27, 2013