DUNCAN, Okla. – Shortly after testimony started today in the trial of Charles Dyer, accused of sexually abusing a 7-year-old girl, the judge declared a mistrial.
The reason? The judge ruled that the district attorney's office made inappropriate contact with a few of the jurors. The DA had sent a survey to them last week asking their opinions on how a previous case they had been chosen for was conducted, which is a standard procedure.
Even though the content had nothing to do with the dyer case, the judge felt it could "potentially" impact the jurors.
The surveys are normally sent after the jury term ends, not during it. And this impropriety became known at the end of the first break around 10:45 a.m. today. When court reconvened after lunch, Dyer's attorney asked for a mistrial and the judge granted his request.
Today, around 3 p.m., you could see prosecutors and defense attorneys lugging their boxes full of case files out of the courtroom and just hours after they had delivered opening arguments and began hearing testimony.
During the first break, someone informed the judge that members sitting on Dyer's trial had received mail from the Stephens County DA's Office. The judge told the courtroom, a staff member mailed the letters to 39 jurors on Jan. 20, who had sat on three jury trials last week. Now, two of them are on Dyer's panel and one as an alternate.
The judge also said he did not think the content of the letters and surveys pertained to Dyer's sexual abuse trial, but that in the end it could potentially sway the jury.
The judge stressed it was not the jury's fault, and that this should not have happened. And the prosecutors themselves did not know about the mishap until this morning. In fact, prosecutors had just started questioning their first witness, the mother of the alleged victim, when the trial the request for a mistrial was set in motion.
Now this is the second mistrial on the same charge for Dyer. The previous one came in April, when the jury was deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict. Prosecutors have already set the date for yet another re-trial. This one is scheduled for April 16.