Mistrial: Words matter, inadmissible evidence almost derails Young trial

By: 
Yantis Green
San Angelo Live

SAN ANGELO, TX — Defense attorneys for John Young began punishment testimony Tuesday morning with an objection and motion for a mistrial that almost derailed the three plus week trial. A mistrial would end the trial, and force the State to start a new trial.
John Young’s defense attorney objected to the last witness from Monday. Mike Rocat, a former police officer from Lubbock, testified about John Young being convicted of a misdemeanor DWI during a 1990 fatal car pedestrian crash in Lubbock. According to the banned testimony, Young was driving his Mercedes in Lubbock in 1990 when a woman ran out in front of him. His vehicle struck her resulting in her death.
Defense attorney Dan Hurley told Judge Brock Jones that a section of state law bans that testimony and evidence because it occurred before 1996. Here’s the law Hurley cited:
“Art. 37.07. VERDICT MUST BE GENERAL; SEPARATE HEARING ON PROPER PUNISHMENT.3(i) Evidence of an adjudication for conduct that is a violation of a penal law of the grade of misdemeanor punishable by confinement in jail is admissible only if the conduct upon which the adjudication is based occurred on or after January 1, 1996.”
Hurley and Frank Sellers made a motion for a mistrial because the jury already heard the testimony and had access to the evidence. Judge Jones recessed the proceeding so he and the prosecuting attorneys could read and review the law. Jones told attorneys, “I need to read it."
While the judge and jury were out of the courtroom, the tense silence was only broken by the muffled voices of jurors sequestered in the adjoining room and the occasional beeping of the metal detector as citizens entered the courthouse next to courtroom D next to the entry doors of the courthouse.
John Young left the courtroom during the recess to check on his wife Tracy. His attorneys also left the courtroom to conduct work on the trial.
After about 15 minutes, Judge Jones returned to the courtroom. He sustained Hurley’s motion that the evidence about the DWI in 1990 was inadmissible. After several seconds of silence and after hearing from prosecutors, Jones granted Hurley’s motion that all that evidence would be stricken from the record and the jury would be instructed to disregard that evidence.
Defense attorney Sellers again moved for a mistrial because the jury had already heard the evidence. There was a tenseness that followed as Jones considered what decision to make.
Hurley motioned again for a mistrial saying there “was already a skunk in the jury, and you just can’t get rid of the smell.” He told judge Jones that any instruction to disregard the evidence would only mislead and confuse the jury and the problem is so severe that a mistrial is necessary. Judge Jones denied that motion.
The trial testimony began in front of the jury at 9:45 a.m. Prosecutors called Michael Deadman back to the witness stand. Deadman is the court appointed administrator of John Sullivan’s estate. He testified that Young paid back to the estate $90,000 which was used to purchase a property in Abilene. Testimony showed the $90,000 came from a loan against Young’s wife’s Certificates of Deposit.
Defense attorneys presented evidence that Young transferred their home into his wife’s name in September 2017. The Sweetwater home is just under 5,000 sq. ft. and is on the tax appraisal rolls for $618,710.
Deadman was excused from the witness stand at 10:23 a.m. and the State rested its case.
After the state rested, defense attorney Frank Sellers approached the bench and told judge Jones that they had received information that a member of the jury had experienced an issue recently that prejudiced that juror against Young and his defense. That juror, he said, was making faces against the defense and Young. Sellers told the judge that the problem was so severe that he had to move for a mistrial.
Judge Jones denied the motion.
The defense began its case by calling San Angelo attorney Rick Dehoyos to the stand. Dehoyos told the jury he met John Sullivan while working as an assistant city attorney for the city of San Angelo. Dehoyos was subpoenaed by the defense and didn’t want to be a part of this trial. He said while was working for the City, he was given a case where a person was filing deeds as ‘John the Baptist.’ He said he came to know that person as John Sullivan.

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