Attorney Mahmoud Rabah’s client lives to fight another day! During a high profile attempted murder case in Queens County, the court inadvertently admitted physical and statement evidence that the prosecution failed to reveal prior to trial. This damaging evidence was kept secret by the prosecutor handling the case in an effort to cover-up failures by a prior prosecutor who previously denied the existence of such evidence. In fact, the prior prosecutor explicitly stated at a pre-trial hearing that the evidence did not exist. As a result, Mr. Rabah asked that the evidence be suppressed. The court conducted a hearing in middle of the trial and suppressed both the physical evidence and statement evidence. The court also granted Mr. Rabah’s motion for a mistrial since his client had been irreparably prejudiced by the prosecutor’s malfeasance.
Although prosecutors have a duty to turn over all relevant information prior to trial, there are times, such as here, when they fail to do so. Fortunately, this error, although revealed exceedingly late, was caught before something worse could happen. I, however, fear for all the defendants that went through the rigors of trial and and were found guilty because of errors such as the one committed in this case.
A mistrial is usually declared when an error is committed during trial that cannot be cured without undue prejudice to the defendant. Although it is not a victory in the usual sense, it does have certain benefits. By having a trial begin but not finish, the defense is able to examine the People’s case and even witnesses. This can offer invaluable insight into the People’s strengths and weaknesses and can help in preparations for the next trial. For example, in this case all the key witnesses’ identities were kept secret by protective orders. Before the trial began, there was no telling who would testify or what they would say. Now, having seen and examined the People’s witnesses, a stronger defense can be formulated for the next trial.
A new trial will be scheduled in two months.