Prosecutor’s Group Text Causes Mistrial

August 27, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

It is not entirely uncommon for mistrials to happen in criminal cases. However, it is not so common for a mistrial to happen due to a text message. In a recent trial for a 2015 murder, a prosecutor’s text message resulted in the case’s second mistrial. Now the defense attorney is requesting that the case gets dismissed altogether.

We will cover the details of the case, along with the text message that resulted in the mistrial.

What was the Case?

Corey Gordon was arrested in 2015 for the death of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son. The mother, Chantel Haye, told police she left 3-year-old Khyese Coach in the watch of Gordon while she attended her first day at a telemarketing company in Boca Raton.

When Gordon picked up Haye from work, she noticed that Khyese was unmoving and cold to the touch. She demanded that her boyfriend drive them to the hospital. “I kept asking him, ‘What did you do? What did you do?’” Haye told a local news station.

Penny Williams, Khyese’s aunt, recalled that the young boy had “marks on his face, both sides of his face. His lip was busted, and he was just stretched out.”

Gordon dropped Haye and Khyese off at the hospital around 5 p.m. and then left. The 3-year-old boy was pronounced dead, and the autopsy report indicated that he died from blunt force trauma.

Khyese’s family had seen the signs of abuse in previous instances. His grandmother claimed he came home on Halloween with a black eye, and appeared to be scared of Gordon.

The Florida Department of Children and Families reported that there were two other cases of abuse involving Khyese. The first took place in 2009 and the second was in 2014. DCF records stated that Khyese, “was always crying and had marks that resembled belt marks on his body. There were also concerns of domestic violence in the home.” However, the investigation was later closed due to no indications of physical injury.

Gordon is facing a first-degree murder charge for the death of Khyese Coach.

Group Text to the Judge

Assistant State Attorney Katya Palmiotto sent out a text message in a group chat with both current and former homicide prosecutors regarding the case. The text was a complaint about the judge’s ruling in the case, which was about how the judge refused to allow a 911 call as evidence against Gordon.

“Holden just sustained their objection and wouldn’t let us put the 911 call in as hearsay,” Palmiotto’s text read.

What Palmiotto did not realize was that Broward County Judge Peter Holden was also included in the group chat, since he was a former homicide prosecutor who had only been appointed as a judge in 2018. Lawyers are prohibited from communicating with the judge if the defendant’s lawyer is not also present, so Palmiotto’s text admitted her fault.

The text message resulted in defense attorney, Michael Gottlieb, filing for mistrial on Wednesday. Gottlieb summarized that Palmiotto had been overheard saying that she messed up “real bad.”

“The judge was visibly upset and appeared angry,” Gottlieb said. Judge Holden supposedly reprimanded Palmiotto for the mistake, and then declared a mistrial. Now Gottlieb is filing to dismiss the entire case, but Judge Holden has not yet responded to the request.

This is not the first mistrial in the case. Back in May, a different judge declared a mistrial when a prosecutor asked one of the witnesses about Gordon’s refusal to provide a statement. Since trial jurors in a criminal case are not allowed to correlate the defendant’s silence with guilt, it was reason for a mistrial.

Mistrials in Florida

A mistrial is a trial that is declared void before the return of the jury verdict, or a judge’s decision in a bench trial. A mistrial can occur for various reasons, like:

  • The death of a juror or attorney
  • Issues in jury selection discovered during trial
  • A fundamental error that would prejudice the defendant and cannot be cured by further jury instructions
  • The jury is deadlocked
  • The parties engage in misconduct, like jury or witness tampering

Either side can move for a mistrial, but the ultimate decision on whether to grant such a motion is in the hands of the judge. The court must determine whether continuing with the trial would be fundamentally unfair to the defendant, or a waste of time and money, due to whatever error occurred. Mistrials are seen as an extraordinary remedy to only be used when absolutely necessary.

After a mistrial is declared, the defendant is not necessarily off the hook. It does not violate the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights to retry a defendant if they consented to or requested the mistrial. But, if the defendant objects to a retrial, it may be barred. If the mistrial is due to misconduct by the prosecutor or jurors, retrial is prohibited.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Getting accused of a crime can be extremely stressful, and it is not easy to navigate the legal world. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, your best bet at strategizing a strong defense is to work with a skilled attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients across Florida and will stand by your side and fight for your freedom. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

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