LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Mistrial: Legally, it's like a trial never happened.
"We've had several lately, but over the years that I've been here in the past, we've had several cases that juries didn't reach a verdict and we've retried the case," Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington said.
That was the case at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, after 12 hours of deliberation, a jury couldn't decide if Joshua Handy was responsible for the shooting death of 21-year-old Jerrard Jernigan. Then there's last month's sexual assault trial and the counselor perjury trial back in December -- all where jurors couldn't agree on a verdict. When a mistrial is declared, it's back to square one.
"All the options are open to all people," Herrington said.
Herrington says settlement options can be explored or the they can select another jury and try the case again.
"If there's a mistrial, whatever the first trial costs, it'll probably cost the same thing to do it over," Herrington said.
Trying the case again could mean thousands of taxpayer dollars.
"We can't say sorry because we had a mistrial we're not going to pay any of the bills, so we continue to pay those bills, mistrial or not," County Auditor Eddie Gray said.
The biggest cost to the county is often court-appointed attorney fees. But, even if defendants hire their own lawyer, the costs can stack up.
"It really depends on the individual case, you know, most cases in which there's a homicide, you have a pathologist, many times there's DNA evidence or any type of ballistic expert or anything of that nature, then there is some expense in that trial," Herrington said.
Although prosecuting attorneys are salaried, they're spending time re-trying those cases instead of working on new ones.
"It's disappointing when you have a case you've presented when it doesn't reach a conclusion, but that's part of the business of trying cases, I guess," Herrington said.
For defendants in a mistrial, time will tell if days of testimony and evidence will be enough for another jury to decide their fate.