Tuesday, April 8, 2008
In some ways there is relief for the defense when a mistrial occurs - at least it isn't a conviction. In another respect, it is an added weight - they have to go through it again. The court has reset 77 year old Wecht's re-trial for May 27th, although the defense will likely present motions to dismiss in the interim. Some of the problems that a defendant faces after a mistrial are -
- The prosecution has heard the cross-examinations and the theme of the defense case.
- The defendant will not only be paying for one trial, but now for a second one. (Prosecutor's work on the public payroll and don't have to worry about this aspect - although maybe they should have to answer to whether the expenditure of money is a worthwhile one)
One question prosecutors should be asking now is whether this case is really worth a re-trial. This is where DOJ Criminal Division oversight should be used, as often an individual USAttorney's office is so invested in a case that they can't properly compare this case with those across the country. It is interesting that USAs want uniformity in sentencing, but when it comes to selection of charges they seem to want the individual office making a decision, except in the unusual cases that require DOJ approval like RICO cases. Maybe it would be good to require DOJ Criminal Division oversight in all cases that resulted in a mistrial, to ascertain as to whether valuable resources should be spent on a re-trial. After all the defendant has suffered by payment of attorney fees, by publicity, and most of all by the strain and pressure that comes in being a defendant facing many years in prison.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Mistrial declared in Wecht case; new trial set for May 27
Pittsburgh Post Tribune - Wecht trial over; feds to try again