Monday, August 4, 2008
Lawyers for former Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht argued to have the charges against their client dismissed using a federal court rule and a Supreme Court ruling. The defense says all charges should be dropped because the judge who declared a mistrial after 54 hours of deliberations did so unfairly. By rule, before ordering a mistrial, the court must “give each defendant and the government an opportunity to comment on the propriety of the order, to state whether that party consents or objects, and to suggest alternatives.” The district attorney’s office says those requirements were met a few days before the declaration of a mistrial when the defense argued for the mistrial after the jury said it was deadlocked. The prosecution says the judge had no reason to assume that the defense’s position had changed at the time of a third note from the jury. The difference from the first jury request to the final was that the members in the first instance only said they were at an impasse while in the final instance they said they were at an impasse on charge number 38. There were 41 charges and many felt number 38 was among the prosecution’s strongest cases. The defense also cited a Supreme Court case where it was ruled that a jury could be biased against either side if the members knew that lawyers had argued to keep them in deliberations beyond their wishes. The defense claims that is why they were unable to argue against the mistrial while the jury was in the room.