By: Kyle James | 12-01-2017 | News
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Judge Declares Mistrial Because Witness Mentioned Killer Was An Illegal Immigrant

A Florida murder trial 2 years in the making was brought to an abrupt halt by a Lee County judge just two hours into the trial and 3 minutes into a witness's testimony.

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<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Credit: Andrew West | The News-Press</span>

Dorrien Pitts held his face in his hands after his testimony caused the judge to halt the trial. Pitts was at the trial as a witness to testify against Brian Hyde, a man accused of stabbing his aunt, her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend in August of 2015 killing all three.

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<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Credit: Andrew West | The News-Press</span>

The trial went on for less than two hours before it was stopped after Pitts inadvertently mentioned Hyde was an illegal immigrant. Jury selection opened Tuesday and opening statements began Wednesday morning before grinding to a halt. Just three minutes into Pitt's testimony, it was over. "He is my wife’s nephew so she asked if he can come stay with us," Pitts added that Hyde was incarcerated at the Texas detention center for illegally crossing the border.

The statement caused the judge to halt the proceedings and the attorney's hurriedly gathered at the sidebar. Shortly after, Judge Margaret O. Steinbeck ordered the jury out of the courtroom. "Mr. Hyde's immigration status is not relevant and it's potentially prejudicial," said judge Steinbeck. "Let's see if you can unring the bell."

Assistant State Attorney Andreas Gardiner tried to mitigate the impact of the statement, "The entire family is from Belize and that Mr. Hyde had been temporarily detained in order to be released to the family. He wasn’t charged with any type of crime," said Gardiner. "It was inadvertent and it was brief and I think we can overcome that."

Gardiner asked the judge to instruct the jury to disregard the information as irrelevant but Hyde's attorneys argued against Gardiner's request. The defense filed a motion that Hyde's immigration status be 'off limits' during the trial and declined to comment after Wednesdays proceeding.

Assistant Public Defender Neil McLoughlin said, "Unfortunately, we live in a time where it is a hot-button issue. We have half a country who favors building a wall along the Texas border." Judge Steinbeck ultimately agreed with the defense saying, "I don’t believe we can unring this bell."

Tamara Lave, an associate professor of law at the University of Miami, offered an outside perspective defending the judge's call. "Judges are reluctant to call a mistrial," Lave said. "When you call a mistrial it means everything you’ve done thus far is lost."

The jury for the trial was made up of three women and two men who heard the opening statements and Pitt's testimony leading up to the mistrial. Hyde's is facing murder charges for the deaths of 37-year-old Dora Pitts, 17-year-old Starlette Pitts, and 19-year-old Michael Kelly. He also faces a charge for the death of the younger Pitt's and Kelly's unborn child bringing the total to four second-degree murder charges.

Gardiner told the court about how three of the victims were discovered with multiple cuts and slashes on their bodies and sexual assault kits found evidence of semen comparable to Hyde's on the two women's bodies. The only family member Gardiner left alive in the home was 1-year-old A'Ziah Kelly. Deputies found the tot covered in blood and crying but she was unhurt.

Both the defense and prosecution told jurors they would have to determine if Hyde was guilty or not but they didn't get a chance. "

Judge Steinbeck said, "It’s not something that any judge does lightly."

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2 Comment/s
Anonymous No. 13095 2017-12-01 : 10:16

Belize - a former British Colony.

The official language is English.

They have strict Border and Immigration control.

They require all immigrants to show they can support themselves.

These are laws US Citizens have been wanting for years.

Anonymous No. 13139 2017-12-02 : 11:36

Regarding the Mistrial.

As much as it upsets people, the logic is the same that everybody would want applied to them if standing trial for their life.

The jury is there to try the person for the crime charged not other issues.

The jury should ONLY be focused on that crime and that evidence.

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