Legal experts weigh in on mistrial in cold case murder trial
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Lots of questions remain unanswered, after the trial of Timothy Williams, the accused killer of 14 year-old Rochester girl, came to an abrupt halt Wednesday.
Judge Tom Moran declared a mistrial, due to “misconduct” by more than one juror.
For the family, it means starting from scratch and prolonging their quest for justice a little longer.
Wendy Jerome was brutally murdered and raped nearly 40 years ago. Her body was found outside School 33. The mistrial is leaving many with unanswered questions.
The big question everyone’s asking; what exactly happened and why did it warrant a mistrial? The details remain behind closed doors.
A mistrial happens when a jury is unable to reach a verdict or there’s misconduct. In the trial of Timothy Williams, Judge Moran said more than one juror went against the rules.
Attorney Peter Pullano, managing partner with Tully Rinckey, has been doing defense work for 36 years. He said the reason we can’t know more may have to do with the judge’s desire to be fair and cautious.
“Probably the same reasons we don’t really divulge names of jurors,” he said. “If there was a juror to blame, or a couple to blame for this, that’s really not the public’s concern.”
He added there may be a transcription of the events. It’s for all the parties involved to know, and potentially the appeals court.
From the minute jurors take an oath, they agree to not talk about the case among other jurors or anyone else. They agree to not do their own research or watch the news.
Theoretically, any one of these rules could’ve been broken.
Mike Green, Former Monroe County District Attorney of 22 years and current visiting professor at RIT, has tried over 100 felony cases. He said if these rules are violated, it absolutely warrants starting over again.
“When the judge is telling you in person every day, ‘Don’t talk to the other people in the jury room or anybody else about this case,’ you would hope the jurors would understand and follow that instruction,” he said.
In this trial, the defense team requested the mistrial once they learned of the misconduct. The request was granted, and even District Attorney Sandra Doorley said it was the right move.
The news hit family members especially hard. Wendy’s mother could be seen in tears leaving court.
“I could see all parties being frustrated or upset with what happened,” said Green. “Everybody puts a lot of time and effort into cases like this.”
“This is hard work,” said Pullano. “And there are lots of rules. You got to follow them all. Most understand that. You just got to bring that home to the other people a little bit more.”
Some are asking if it’s possible the jurors could be charged with contempt of court. Pullano said that’s unlikely, and nothing like that has happened in our area.
As for the possibility of a juror being sued, their misconduct would have to be egregious.