The Master of the Mistrial strikes again. Chuck Lanehart had a victory in Cochran County this week. His client, Chris Mills, was charged with a first-degree felony, aggravated assault by using a deadly weapon and causing serious bodily injury to a person in a dating relationship.
The case was initially tried in Hockley County in June of 2008. It was an insanity defense (six mental health experts agreed the client suffered from a serious mental illness at the time of the crime, and two of the experts testified he was legally insane), which the jury quickly rejected, and the client was sentenced to 45 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The case was reversed on appeal because of improper jury argument (the DA compared the client to mass-murderers Mohammad Atta, John Wayne Gacy, etc.). Fred Stangl and Nicky Boatwright assisted at the first trial, and Fred and Ralph Brock assisted on the appeal.
The judge granted a change of venue to Cochran County, and the re-trial began Monday. This time, the focus was on lack of evidence to prove serious bodily injury (the complainant received multiple stab wounds, but there was some doubt about the severity of the wounds). The jury convicted in 20 minutes. At punishment, mitigation evidence came from several character witnesses and the same six mental health experts, who testified to the clientâ€™s history of serious mental illness.
After about two hours of deliberation, the jury sent out a note indicating one of the jurors had informed the rest about a TV news story she had watched indicating that this was a retrial and the first jury had given Chris 45 years. Chuck asked for a mistrial, but before the judge ruled, he negotiated a deal with DA Gary Goff, and the client accepted a sentence of 20 years in prison. Meanwhile, the jury continued its deliberations, and after the plea deal was completed returned with a verdict of 35 years, $10,000 fine. Prior to trial, Gary had rejected a 20-year offer and payment of $10,000 restitution. Chuck reports the client and his family are very happy.