The sordid tale of the former police officer who shot his wife’s husband took an unfortunate turn when defense attorney Michael Selnick spotted one of the twelve jurors on his cellphone during his closing argument. Selnick immediately approached the bench and demanded a mistrial and the judge concurred; it was just about the only thing they could do from there.
Selnick told the court that this conduct so impugned the integrity of the entire process that the only possible response would be to declare a mistrial. While the prosecution protested, ultimately the judge agreed with Selnick. For now, Carlton Nebergall remains a free man pending the prosecution’s option to press for another trial.
Jurors are generally allowed to have phones in their possession during a trial. But they must be put away, turned off, or in silent mode so as not to distract from the proceedings. The judge generally instructs juries not to use their phones to look up information regarding the trial. That seemed unlikely with this juror who was caught sleeping in the jury box before this incident but was allowed to remain on the jury after the judge gave him a stern talking-to.
What Does the Mistrial Mean?
The mistrial only means that the trial is now over without a verdict. It would be similar to the circumstances of a hung jury. The prosecution has a right to retry the case and they can use what they know about this case to determine whether or not that’s a worthwhile choice. Chances are, they will attempt to convict Nebergall again of the same crime.
For Nebergall, this is probably a win. If the defense felt confident in pressing forward, they would likely not have brought the juror to the attention of the judge. But in this case, they clearly didn’t.
In this case, the judge did not have the option of continuing with an alternate juror. One juror had to be excused after coming down with the flu, and another injured her knee in a slip and fall. So the jury was already at the 12-person minimum.
There is no indication as of yet whether or not the juror will be charged with criminal contempt of court.
Criminal Contempt of Court
Criminal contempt of court is a rather complicated crime to be charged with. Essentially, it is an attempt to obstruct, defy, or impugn the integrity of the proceedings or the court itself. Additionally, criminal contempt can be charged when an individual fails to abide by a court order.
In a recent case where a juror was caught looking up information relevant to a case she was hearing, the court imposed a $250 fine and 25 hours of community service.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a crime, the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the Skier Law Firm, P.A. can help you build your defense. Talk to us early in the process and we can begin building your defense immediately.