Mistrial declared in rape case after jurors fail to show up
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DRIGGS — District Seven Court Judge Steven Boyce declared a mistrial Monday afternoon for a three year old felony rape case. At the end of the four-hour-long jury selection, there were simply not enough jurors in the pool available to serve after 11 did not show for duty.
Of the 60 jurors called to the trial of Tetonia resident Ryan Richard Berry, Boyce had excused 11 jurors before the start of the selection on Monday with 38 potential jurors showing for duty and the 11 others logging unexcused absences.
The court will file an order to ”show cause” as to why those jurors did not show. This will likely require those jurors who missed the trial to come before the judge and give their reasons for their failure to appear. In some cases, a fine or jail time may be levied.
Twelve jurors were needed to serve on the jury, with one alternative juror. In addition to those 13, each attorney — the state and the defense — were allowed three additional jurors to use as “peremptory challenges,” meaning they could dismiss without any reason any of the 13 selected and replace using their selected three jurors. The jury selection on Monday needed to produce 19 jurors.
Some potential jurors were dismissed during the selection process on the grounds that they felt they could not render a fair verdict because of prior interactions with law enforcement or experiences with domestic violence situations. Others were dismissed because they had worked with the defendant at a local grocery store at the time of his arrest or had familial relationships with his family.
Teton County Prosecutor Bailey Smith was disappointed but says the case is not over.
“I will reschedule the trial,” Smith said after the decision was rendered. “It is certainly a disappointment that we were not able to pick a jury today.”
Smith asked that Boyce put the decision in writing as part of the official record.
Berry pled not guilty to charges of felony rape, false imprisonment, battery and providing alcohol to a minor stemming from a 2018 arrest. In April, the newly elected Smith opted to add one more felony charge alleging that Berry destroyed or attempted to destroy evidence of a rape and video voyeurism.
Berry has been out of jail on $50,000 bail since his arrest in 2018.