The Ottumwa Courier

November 15, 2013

Mistrial

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — MT. PLEASANT — In a very emotional day at the Seth Techel first-degree murder trial, the jury made it clear to the courtroom that they will not reach a verdict.

At approximately 2:45 p.m., the jury was brought back into the courtroom after deliberating since 9 a.m. Sometime before then, the head juror sent a note to Judge Daniel Wilson stating they were deadlocked and a verdict could not possibly be reached.

The judge asked the other 11 jurors if they had any disagreements with what the head juror said, and none of them raised their hand, indicating they all agreed that a verdict would not be reached.

Even though the jury made it clear a verdict was not possible, the judge sent them back into deliberations for the remainder of the afternoon.

After the jury went back into the jury room to continue deliberating, defense attorney Steve Gardner brought to the court’s attention that the public in attendance was not holding their emotions in check. He renewed a previous motion for mistrial based on jury interference.

“I renew the motion for mistrial, especially after the jury has expressed they are hopelessly deadlocked, and then exposed to type of behavior from the public that they were just exposed to,” Gardner said. “The public is attempting to influence them. I’m not going to say which side; it doesn’t matter, but it is wrong and it should stop.”

To that, the prosecution agreed that the emotions of those in attendance have to be kept in check so the jury is not swayed. However, assistant prosecuting attorney Scott Brown stated that Gardner standing there and trying to suggest that anyone in the court was attempting to sway the jury’s decision was simply “nonsense.”

Wilson made sure everyone in the courtroom knew they were not allowed to display emotion, saying:

“You have to control your emotions in this case. I know that is difficult to do. If you don’t think you can control any outbursts of emotion … go ahead and leave.”

After another hour and a half of deliberations, the jury was brought back to the courtroom. Wilson reminded the courtroom that there were to be no emotional outbursts with the jury present before bringing the jury back.

The judge asked the jury if there had been a verdict reached in the time since they started deliberations again. The head juror stated there was not a verdict reached and that there had been no change in the voting numbers. There was also no possibility that further deliberations would sway their vote, according to the head juror.

Wilson went into deep thought for a few moments and then granted the defense motion of a mistrial, meaning he was ending the trial due to the jury not coming to a unanimous decision. The jury was then sent out of the courtroom for the final time.

“The motion for a mistrial made by the defendant … is granted,” Wilson said. “After the deliberations it appears that this jury cannot agree on a unanimous decision on this case.”

It was then determined that further action with the case would be settled at a hearing at the Wapello County Courthouse at 1:15 p.m. Nov. 25. Techel will continue to be held under the same circumstances.

According to the prosecution, they will try to get another retrial.

“It was an easy decision to make,” Brown said.

After the trial, the Caldwell family was available for questioning. They were understandably very emotional as they talked with the media and did so as a family.

“We are confident that it will be worked out in the future,” Todd Caldwell, Lisa Techel’s father, said. “Of course, we wanted a result today; we wanted justice to be done. We know that it will be done eventually.”

They also spoke to the instance of Gardner making a point to the court that emotions needed to be kept in check. The Caldwells felt that they were getting singled out by the defense.

“We were all really emotional, thinking that it was going to be over with [when the jury came out first],” Caldwell said. “That’s when the defense attorney kind of turned on my family, and I thought it was very disrespectful. I think he made a motion that he thought we were intentionally crying and intentionally behaving in a way to influence the jury, which is totally ridiculous.”