Articles Posted in Motion Practice

One topic that is often at the center of law school lectures but is not an issue that garners a great deal of publicity is the mistrial. The mistrial is one of the most difficult motions that any litigator will ever face should they decide to go that route. The key to a successful mistrial motion is the concept of prejudice but to display that a party has been disadvantaged is easier said than done. Case law, litigators and the general public are often left with a great deal of confusion when addressing this issue. Our goal today will be to provide insight on the topic along with commentary from leaders in the field.  Let’s begin by discussion what the black letter law states and then delve into the shade of gray which is where this issue lives.

Let us start this discussion by reviewing case law on the topic. In the case of Wolfe v. Peery, we find that: “A trial court should grant a mistrial only when a party’s chances of receiving a fair trial have been irreparably damaged and we use the deferential abuse of discretion standard to review trial court ruling denying a mistrial.” While the case law says one thing, the application of the motion is an entirely different process. To gain insight on this issue, we spoke to several of the top criminal defense lawyers in the State of Michigan.

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Amadeo has quickly become known as the top criminal defense attorneys in the State of Michigan. When asked about the mistrial motion, Amadeo stated, “Many attorneys like the idea of bringing a motion for a mistrial but do not understand intricate their motion must be. In fact, if you are banking on winning the motion you are putting your client in a precarious situation.  Case law indicates that a mistrial is only granted if the court is apprised of prejudice that it deems to be incurable.  In the simplest of terms, the court is reluctant to grant such a motion. Our motion writers have found a great deal of success but that is because they look at the issue globally which is an unusual but effective process.”

For those that practice criminal law, our profession has taken a new turn.  Allegations from decades ago are showing up at the courthouse steps as the media is encouraging people to bring claims that would be deemed stale under normal circumstances. With that stated, the lack of physical evidence or eye witness testimony seems to be an issue that has been overlooked in recent prosecutions. One way to fight the subject of a frivolous prosecution is “The Stanaway Motion.”

While most lawyers in the field are not even familiar with this seldom used motion, the presence of the Stanaway case has provided a lot of power to the aggressive criminal defense attorney. People v. Stanaway, 446 Mich. 643 (1994).

The Stanaway case presents the question of whether, and under what circumstances, records of a psychologist, a sexual assault counselor, a social worker, or a juvenile diversion officer regarding a witness should be discoverable by the accused in a criminal trial. This means medical records of one that was a minor at the time of the allegation can potentially come into admissibility with a successful Stanaway motion. This presents an issue that can sway a judge and jury upon reviewing the psychological makeup of the complaining witness.

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