Testimony in the double murder trial of Corey Lyons came to a screeching halt on Monday as Judge Brian Hill adjourned the day’s proceedings early in order to consider a potential mistrial.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger is arguing that the jury may have been irreparably influenced by improper witness testimony, and as a consequence, the defendant could be deprived of his Sixth Amendment rights if the trial is allowed to continue.
According to Sanger, testimony by Corey’s eldest brother, Tom Lyons, included “highly prejudicial” hearsay that he says will be difficult for jurors to discount even if they are instructed to do so by the judge.
Tom, who testified that he believes that Corey is responsible for the death of their brother, Dan, and their brother’s life partner, Barbara, was called to the stand following the conclusion of his sister’s testimony earlier in the day.
The controversy began when Tom was asked by the prosecution about a conversation that allegedly took place between him and his sister, but responded in a way that referenced a larger family discussion that reportedly took place just days after Corey’s arrest. It was during this discussion, he said, that family members largely acknowledged to each other that they had little doubt that Corey was guilty. “No one ever questioned the fact that Corey was responsible,” he said.
This statement drew a number of objections from the defense, and was eventually ruled as inadmissible hearsay by Judge Hill. But by that point, any potential damage had been done.
The remainder of the day was spent outside the presence of the jury where the issue was discussed at length by all sides. Ultimately, Judge Hill decided to delay ruling on the matter, but instructed both sides to return on Tuesday armed with legal precedent that could help guide his decision on whether a “curative instruction” would be sufficient to satisfy the demands of the current situation.
Should a mistrial be granted, the prosecution would be forced to retry the case with a different jury.