Criminal Defense experts agree that when the stakes are high, in a death penalty case, a Judge has to be extremely careful. 10, 15, or 20 years later when the ultimate price is to be paid the courts will be very careful to avoid executing someone who has not received a fair trial.
Judge William Fuente granted a mistrial in a high profile murder case where the alleged victim was a baby tossed from a moving car onto an Interstate highway in Tampa, Florida.“The jurors heard testimony they should not have heard under any circumstances. In this court’s conclusion, a mistrial is necessary,” Fuente said Tuesday morning. One juror was interviewed in the video clip below.
Radio Interview Clip
In this case, the witness, the alleged victim’s mother, brought into at least one juror’s mind the concept of premeditation. Premeditation is a essential element of a death penalty case under Florida criminal law. The statement was excluded during pretrial litigation. Judge Fuente’s ruling was spot-on. This is not the first time that Judge Fuente has been faced with issues that caused a mistrial in a high-profile case.
Recently, a juror had Googled a subject during the course of a trial. That caused Judge Fuente to declare a mistrial and to take action against the Juror. In another recent case, an emotional witness screamed out in front of the jury and the jury heard information that was not admissible. Judge Fuente had to grant another mistrial
It is not uncommon for lawyers to instruct Witnesses not to discuss certain matters that have already been decided by the court before the trial. In this case, I understand the prosecutor did not instruct the witness not to speak of certain matters. Consequently, the case will be tried again later this year.Defense attorneys frequently must move for a mistrial when improper information has been in front of the jury. This is due to the general rule that the failure to allow the judge to correct a problem that has come before the jury during the trial renders that issue non-reviewable by an appeals court later on in the proceedings.
Judge William Fuente – Biography
Judge William Fuente was born in Key West, Fla. on May 21, 1945. He received his B.A. degree (in Biology) from the University of South Florida in 1974 and his J.D. degree from the South Texas College of Law in 1976. He also served in the U.S. Navy from 1967 to 1971.
Judge Fuente began his career in 1980 as an Assistant State Attorney, and was also in private practice lawyer until he was appointed to the Hillsborough County Court in 1994. In 1997, he was elevated to the Circuit Court. He has also taught as an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law.
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