Announcer: The following segment is sponsored by Harding Mazzotti.
Interviewer: The judge in the Kevin Monahan murder trial turned down a request for a mistrial yesterday. Monahan is accused of shooting and killing Kaylin Gillis when she and a group of friends mistakenly turned onto his driveway in their vehicle. That mistrial request was not granted. So now Supervising Attorney Cassandra Kazukenus from Harding Mazzotti is here to explain why. First, can you explain why they were requesting this mistrial?
Cassandra: Yeah, so at one point in the trial, they played the body cam footage from one of the sheriffs that was investigating. And one of the questions asked was, “Did you contact so and so?” So and so happens to be one of the members of the defense team who’s an attorney. And there was a concern that the question and answer with regard to asking about whether you had contacted an attorney could be prejudicial because people can sometimes make assumptions based on that of guilt or not when it’s a constitutional right.
Interviewer: But, ultimately the judge denied that request for a mistrial and basically said that, you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean or imply guilt here just to call your attorney, right?
Cassandra: Correct. So essentially whenever anyone asks for a mistrial, it’s up to judicial discretion, which is broad. They’re the ones sitting there, they’re the ones listening. They know what the case is, they’re listening to the evidence. In this instance, the judge did what was called a curative instruction and explained that question and that answer has no implication on guilt. It doesn’t say that you’re guilty, it doesn’t imply you’re guilty. And the thought process behind a curative instruction is, any potential prejudice is taken back or taken away from the jury in that instance because they’ve explained that it doesn’t mean anything. While it wasn’t admissible, it doesn’t mean what you could potentially think it does. And since it’s the discretion of the court, they, you know, kind of take into account everything going on around them, how the flow is and all that kind of stuff, and make that determination.
Interviewer: What would be some actual reasons for a mistrial to be declared?
Cassandra: Yeah, it’s still case by case because you can’t say this rule is specific, but prosecutors failing to turn over evidence. Inadmissible evidence coming in can be prejudicial depending on what it is. If you don’t think a curative instruction is appropriate, jurors doing their own research, doing their own investigation, talking to people they’re not supposed to. Those would be the typical ones. In civil cases, if an attorney mentions insurance, that can be cause for a mistrial. So it’s things that have a significant impact that can’t be walked back.
Interviewer: Yeah. And really quick before we wrap this up too. One juror was dismissed because they were sick. Why does that mean that they have to be dismissed from the whole rest of the trial?
Cassandra: Well, you have to be there. It’s an important part of it, and that’s why we have alternates on it. And, you know, depending on the length of the trial and stuff like that, recognizing jurors can become sick or have something happen in their regular life that’s traumatic, they can have more alternates if they think there’s the potential for it. Funny story, we actually had a juror pass out during our presentation once from our illustrations and taken out on ambulance… Like taken out… And we had to use our alternate in that instance.
Interviewer: Yeah. Because they’re just missing, you know, important testimony.
Cassandra: Yeah. They have to hear everything. So they can’t make informed decision if they miss a day.
Interviewer: Exactly. All right. Well, thank you for explaining this all to us, we appreciate it.
Cassandra: Not a problem.
Interviewer: For more info covered in our weekly, “What Are Your Rights” segments, or to send us a story idea, just head to our website, cbs6albany.com.