A prosthetic eye popped out as a victim testified from the witness stand, prompting a Philadelphia judge to declare a mistrial.
John Huttick wept in the witness box as he recounted an early morning fight outside a tavern in 2011. The 48-year-old told jurors he tried to intervene in a fight and was punched by 23-year-old Matthew Brunelli, costing him his left eye.
But in mid-testimony, Huttick's prosthetic eye literally popped out of its socket, causing jurors to gasp and rise as if to get away from the gruesome sight, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Amazingly, Huttick was able to catch his prosthetic blue eye and called it an unfortunate accident. The judge agreed, but ordered a mistrial anyway. A new trial is now scheduled for early March.
In general, a mistrial means that a judge will cancel a trial before a verdict is read. The judge will then reschedule a new trial and essentially start over from scratch.
Given that mistrials can lead to a waste of time for both parties and may not be fair for a defendant, judges are typically wary of declaring mistrials. Most commonly, a judge will declare a mistrial in the following circumstances:
- When evidence was improperly admitted,
- When there's misconduct by one of the parties,
- When there's misconduct by a juror, and
- When the jury is unable to arrive at a decision.
In this case, the judge has not alleged misconduct. However, the unfortunate accident of the eye popping out may have influenced and biased the jury against the defendant.
For example, a jury may more likely sympathize with John Huttick as they now have the image of his dislodged eyeball seared into their memories. Or the jury may just have a general distaste and displeasure for Brunelli after seeing, with their own eyes, the injury he allegedly caused.
- Pa. Mistrial Declared When Prosthetic Eye Pops Out (The Associated Press)
- Legalese 101: What is a Mistrial? (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life)
- Reprosecution Following Mistrial (FindLaw)
- Middle Finger to Judge Gets Fla. Woman 30 Days in Jail (FindLaw's Legally Weird)