YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Prosecutors argued in a response filed Tuesday in the 7th District Court of Appeals that a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge did not abuse his discretion in September when he declared a mistrial in a murder case.
For that reason, they wrote, the appeals court must deny a motion by Myckle Hughes appealing a ruling by Judge John Durkin that he can be tried again after the mistrial was declared.
Hughes, 23, of Campbell, was slated Sept. 15 to go on trial on charges of aggravated murder, murder and aggravated robbery for the August 2018 shooting death of 18-year-old Sean Bell of Youngstown.
A jury had been seated in the case when testimony was delayed because a prosecution witness was not available. It was then delayed further when several jurors witnessed an emotional outburst by Bell’s mother.
Judge Durkin questioned six jurors after the outburst and dismissed a juror and an alternate who said they could not be fair and impartial. The other four jurors said they could but Judge Durkin expressed doubts about their “candor,” according to the response.
The judge declared a mistrial Sept. 21 because he thought the outburst had poisoned the ability of the jurors to remain impartial, the response said.
Hughes’ attorneys asked that the charge be dismissed after the mistrial was declared on the grounds that because a jury was already sworn in, he was on trial and that he can not be retried. They said under the U.S. Constitution, a defendant can only be tried once in a criminal case.
Judge Durkin denied the motion.
Hughes and his lawyers appealed that decision to the appeals court.
Prosecutors also said in their motion that Judge Durkin is allowed to use what is known as “manifest necessity” during a trial, which means a mistrial can be declared if an unforeseen circumstance pops up during the proceedings that would make it difficult to proceed or conclude a fair trial.
State law and legal precedence give a judge wide latitude for exercising that practice. For that reason, Judge Durkin acted within the law and the mistrial should be allowed to stand, as should the judge’s ruling that double jeopardy does not appeal to Hughes, the response said.
Police have not released many details in the case except to say Hughes planned to rob Bell.
Hughes was arrested at a Campbell business several hours after Bell was found shot to death in a car on Oak Street Extension. Police had been called to the road for an accident, but when they arrived, they discovered Bell’s body in the car.