A Ramsey County case is declared a mistrial, what that means going forward
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While Derek Chauvin’s trial has grabbed the spotlight, a trial in Ramsey County went mostly under the radar.
This week, a mistrial was declared when a jury could not reach a verdict in the Anthony Trifiletti murder case. Investigators say Trifiletti shot and killed Douglas Lewis following a fender bender in St. Paul early last May.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS took a deeper look at what a mistrial is and what it means for a case moving forward.
"I’ve tried at least over 250 felony trials and I think I’ve had nine or 10 hung juries… you need a unanimous jury. So you need 12 jurors to convict or acquit," Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said.
A Ramsey County judge declared a mistrial on Monday.
When asked, "How rare is this that we see a mistrial in a case such as this?" University of St. Thomas School of Law Associate Professor and former defense attorney Rachel Moran replied: "I think there are underlying racial implications that jump out to me, in terms of a jury’s unwillingness to find a white person with a permit, wasn’t acting in self-defense, when they killed a Black man."
Orput has been watching this case from the outside.
"These are the tough cases, where someone says they have a self-defense, and sometimes that can be persuasive at least to one person. that’s what makes those very difficult. and when I learned it was a hung jury, I was not surprised, actually, I thought, somebody believed Trifiletti had a defense," he said.
Trifiletti, 24, was charged with second-degree murder for the May 1 shooting near Highway 61 and Burns Avenue in St. Paul that killed 39-year-old Douglas Lewis.
Police say the two were arguing over insurance information after a crash.
Trifiletti said he thought Lewis had a gun and said he shot in self-defense. But Lewis was not armed.
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office isn’t saying the jury score, or, how many jurors voted to convict or acquit Trifiletti, but told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the trial lasted about eight days, including jury selection, and said the jury deliberated for 27-and-a-half hours — about one day.
Before the judge declared a mistrial, the attorney’s office said jurors wrote a note twice to the judge saying they could not come up with a unanimous decision.
"After the judge has given up hope on reaching a verdict, the attorneys can ask the jurors if they would be willing to talk about why they couldn’t reach a verdict," Moran said.
When asked, "Which factors are in play in deciding if or how to retry this case?", Orput replied: "I know I would reevaluate my case unless it were not close. If it was just one juror or two, I’d go, I’m on the right track I’ll just retry it again. But, if it were that then I’d really re-evaluate the charges."
Regarding whether there will be a retrial, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:
"We are currently considering our next steps in this case, which will include discussing those steps with the family of Mr. Lewis."
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS also spoke with Trifiletti’s attorney, who said if there is a retrial, it’s not clear if he would represent his client again.