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San Francisco DUI Attorney: Mistrial Improperly Ordered – Double Jeopardy Triggered

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Day v. Judge Bruce Haskell , - N.W.2d - -, 2011 WL 2505052 (N.D.), 2011 ND 125

After jury empaneled and sworn, Defendant, bailiff, and jurors engaged in conversation about pheasants while judge and lawyers were in chambers. Court quickly ruled that any such conversation automatically required mistrial, but the North Dakota Supreme Court held that a mistrial was not manifestly necessary and that a retrial was constitutionally barred by the Double Jeopardy clause.

A mistrial is not automatically required when the jury is exposed to improper communication; rather, the court must consider the circumstances of each case and determine if there is a manifest necessity for a mistrial. See United States v. Melius , 123 F.3d 1134, 1138–39 (8th Cir.1997) (the trial court's decision to grant a mistrial when there is a claim of possible juror bias is entitled to deference but the court's decision is not beyond review and the court must act responsibly and deliberately considering the defendant's interests). The trial court's decision to terminate a criminal proceeding after jeopardy has attached should not be taken lightly. Linghor , 2004 ND 224, ¶ 22, 690 N.W.2d 201. In this case, the trial court did not consider any alternatives and the decision was made quickly and without sufficient reflection. The trial court did not engage in the “scrupulous exercise of judicial discretion" required before making its decision.

The Court noted that the trial court ordered the mistrial just seven minutes after a prosecutorial motion for it was made, and that inadequate consideration to alternative remedies was given.


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