The Mistrial: The Misunderstood Motion

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.”

Matthew McManus is the founder of McManus and Amadeo and is known as one of the top researchers in the State of Michigan. McManus has found success if writing motions that have led to dismissals. When asked about this topic, McManus said, “When you write these motions you are attempting to clean up the mess of another. Most of the motions that we have been writing have occurred because of bad lawyering of another attorney. We also have to keep in mind when writing the motion, it is dangerous to do too much research and confuse the court.”

At the end of the day, we find the term prejudice at the forefront of the motion for a mistrial and to persuade a court that there was truly prejudice needs expertise in motion practice. It is not simply a matter of losing a trial, it is a statement of irreparable harm. With that said, only the best of the best will be capable of overcoming such a hurdle and this is key to any type of criminal defense matter.

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