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Justices: No error in declaring mistrial

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A trial court's determination to discharge a jury at a defendant's second trial wasn't an abuse of discretion, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

At issue in Gary Dennis Jackson v. State of Indiana, No. 39S01-0907-CR-309, was whether the jury at Gary Dennis Jackson's second trial for battery should have been dismissed and whether Jackson's conviction at his third trial violated double jeopardy rules. Jackson's first trial ended in a hung jury; the same day the jury was sworn in for his second trial, a newspaper article ran about the trial with an excerpt from a letter Jackson wrote to the prosecutor trying his case. The state requested a mistrial because it believed an admonishment to the jury couldn't overcome the prejudice against the state created by the article. Five jurors admitted to being exposed to the article. The trial court granted the motion for mistrial.

At Jackson's third trial, he was convicted of Class C felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, finding the trial court abused its discretion in granting the mistrial and the retrial was barred by double jeopardy.

Citing various United States Supreme Court and Indiana appellate decisions on mistrials, the Supreme Court found the trial court's decision to grant the mistrial and order a new trial wasn't an abuse of discretion. The justices disagreed with Jackson that the trial court had to make explicit findings or give explanations as to why it granted the mistrial. The trial court also wasn't required to admonish the jury or attempt other measures before declaring the mistrial.

"The trial court's decision is bolstered by the fact that the jurors were exposed to the article the same day they were impaneled and the mistrial was declared the next day. This was before any evidence was introduced, and even before opening statements," wrote Justice Theodore Boehm.

The justices also affirmed the exclusion of a paramedic's testimony that while he was treating the victim, someone said that the victim fell and hit his head against the wall. The paramedic's account was hearsay and not admissible under any exclusions. The high court also found sufficient evidence to support Jackson's conviction.

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