Well, I suppose you have to give it to Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan and his office. They apparently “never say die” and may actually believe in the third time is the charm theory.
Cara Rintala (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) was charged for the murder of her wife back in March, 2010. The case went to trial. The jury could not reach a unanimous decision of either “guilty” or “not guilty”. So, the Commonwealth took the case to trial again. They got the same result. A hung jury.
Finally, the Defendant brought a motion to dismiss the case rather than sit through another jury trial.
Judge Mary-Lou Rup, sitting in Hampshire Superior Court has now denied the motion to dismiss.
The case is scheduled for an October 22nd status hearing in Hampshire Superior Court, said Marey Carey, spokeswoman for District Attorney’s Office. And they are planning to go for it again.
In its motion, the defense argued that the Defendant’s murder indictment should be dismissed based on the insufficient evidence presented by prosecutors to find her guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It further argued that, as the Commonwealth has no significant new evidence to what was already insignificant evidence to convict at a third trial, the indictment should be dismissed and the court “should bar further prosecution.”
That would be known as a dismissal “with prejudice”.
Defense attorneys also cited the Defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial and to be spared from double jeopardy, as well as her rights under Massachusetts common law, the due process clause of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, and “the court’s inherent supervisory powers.”
The court took issue with the court’s so-called “inherent authority,” stating that “even if the Supreme Judicial Court were to hold that the trial court has inherent authority to dismiss a case when jurors have been unable to reach unanimous verdicts after two successive trials, in my view the circumstances in the case do not warrant my exercise of that authority.”
Northwestern First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne, the prosecutor in the case, also informed the court at a hearing last month that he plans to present new evidence if a third trial is ordered.
That would be known as “trying to cover all basses”.
In any event, the court has ruled that prosecutors have presented sufficient evidence for a retrial.
…And so it shall be.
In the meantime, the Defendant remains free on $150,000 bail.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Double Jeopardy, Rights To Fair Trials And Other Anticipated Constitutional Rights
Well, if my regular readers have learned anything from this blog over the years is that those nice Constitutional rights that keep one warm, cozy and feeling secure at night are not always what they seem.
In fact, they are nowhere near as protective in real life as most people think.
This is but one of the reasons I always tell you not to try to argue about them with law enforcement as they are coming to arrest you. Shouting to an officer that she has no right to arrest you in the street is an excellent way to ensure getting arrested in the street.
But I digress.
The right against double jeopardy is not as broad as most people think. True, jeopardy did attach as soon as the jury was sworn in…but the prosecution itself is not over yet. Had the jury reached a verdict, then the prosecution would be over.
In other words, if the jury found the Defendant not guilty, it would be all over. The Commonwealth would not be able to re-try her for the same crime. That did not happen here.
Also, while it is true that the court has a great deal of power over what happens in the trial in front of her, that power is not absolute. Many people think that a judge can simply look at a prosecution, consider it weak and dismiss it for that reason.
This is not the case. Not in law and not in reality.
There has to be a specific legal reason for a judge to dismiss a case. Perhaps because “right to a speedy trial”. Perhaps the Commonwealth made a fatal mistake in the Grand Jury. Maybe a motion to dismiss reveals that there is not enough evidence as a matter of law to convict the defendant.
The fact that two juries could not make up their minds is not proof that the Commonwealth does not have enough evidence as a matter of law.
Perhaps more important is the reason based in reality. First of all, judges do not like to dismiss cases because they are supposed to weigh all the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution (in deciding a motion to dismiss) and there is a preference that cases be decided by a trier of fact (in this case, a jury).
We have argued in the past about judges who do find for the defense and are then criticized and even pressured to resign as a result of it. So, in a close call such as this, do not expect the court to extend its judicial neck on the chopping block.
On a high profile murder case no less!
These are but a few of the reasons one would expect the motion to fail. Clearly, there were more arguments on both sides, but there is limited space in a blog.
My next blog, hopefully, will be Friday’s first Video Blog for Attorney Sam. Here’s hoping it gets up there.
In the meantime, have a great, safe and law abiding weekend!
For the original stories upon which this blog is based, please go to http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2014/09/judge_oks_murder_case_retrial_after_2_hung_juries and http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/northwestern_das_office_motion.html