Eye-Popping Testimony Shouldn’t Have Caused Mistrial, Prosecutor Says
(PHILADELPHIA) — A Philadelphia prosecutor was upset Thursday that a judge declared a mistrial in an assault case because a witness literally cried his eye out.
John Huttick, 48, was testifying Wednesday about the last thing he saw when he went to break up a fight in a bar’s parking lot and was allegedly struck by Mathew Brunelli, 23. The moment made Huttick cry and his prosthetic eye fell into his hands.
Some members of the jury gasped. The defense lawyer asked for a mistrial and Judge Robert Coleman granted it.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Gilson, a prosecutor for 26 years, concedes that he had never seen anything like this happen, adding, “Not even close.”
But Gilson also said he “didn’t think it had to be that big a deal” to declare a mistrial.
“I have seen things that I thought were worse or prejudicial…and no mistrial,” Gilson told ABC News.
“Now I have to do it all over again,” he said.
The prosecutor said the jurors were already aware of Huttick’s prosthetic eye and he was prepared to present medical testimony and photographic representation of the damage, which he claims would have been possibly shocking.
Gilson conceded that some members of the jury were affected by the eye-popping scene, but argued against the judge taking the “most extreme measure” of declaring a mistrial without first questioning the jury.
If some jurors were affected, they could have been replaced, he said. “That’s why we have alternate jurors,” Gilson said.
Huttick was with a group of friends at the New Princeton Bar in August 2011 when a confrontation between Brunelli and others broke out in the parking lot, Gilson said. Huttick, a former bartender and doorman at the bar, came outside to mediate. Brunelli struck Huttick in the left eye with what Gilman suspects may have been keys, the prosecutor said.
In a statement to police on the night of the attack, Brunelli admitted striking Huttick, but claims he had nothing in his hand.
Brunelli is being charged with assault and the case is now set for retrial on March 4.
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