Pittsburg County Associate District Judge Tim Mills declared a mistrial Tuesday in the midst of the jury selection process in the murder case filed against Brenda Savage.
Savage is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Bart Jameson at a McAlester residence on Jan. 30, 2019. She was set to face trial this week at the Pittsburg County Courthouse after a jury was seated in the case.
Mills issued his ruling after both the prosecution and defense legal teams issued separate requests for mistrials while prospective jurors waited outside the courtroom at the Pittsburg County Courthouse.
“It appears we have two competing motions for mistrial, both agreeing that the jury was tainted,” Mills said from the bench. “The motion for mistrial is granted.”
Both teams of attorneys contended the jury pool was tainted by what was said during the voir dire questioning process of 36 potential jurors who had passed preliminary rounds of the jury selection process, along with other potential jurors who sat in the gallery in case they were needed.
District 18 First Assistant District Attorney Adam Scharn and Assistant District Attorney Michon Hastings-Hughes represented the prosecution in the case.
McAlester attorneys Blake Lynch and Brecken Wagner formed the defense team.
After Mills granted the mistrial, the defense asked the judge to dismiss the murder case against Savage.
Wagner contended that “The state has essentially dismissed the case.”
Mills told the attorneys to prepare legal arguments.
“I’ll let you both brief me on that,” Mills said.
Mills called for legal briefs containing arguments from both sides by Jan. 31. He set the next hearing for 11 a.m. on Feb. 7 and told Savage, who is free on bail, to be back in court on that day.
Earlier, following a lunch break, one of the potential jurors volunteered that she had taken another look at some of the information about the case. She said she realized she did know some members of Jameson’s family. The judge had admonished potential jurors before every break not to research the case or discuss it with others,
Voir dire questioning continued at that point. After the jurors were later passed for cause and were given a break before the final phase of jury selection was to continue, Wagner asked for a mistrial based on remarks made during the voir dire questioning.
Mills said he would take that request under advisement during the break.
Hastings-Hughes had also made a request for a mistrial based on statements made during the voir dire questioning.
When Mills called court back into session before bringing the potential jurors in from the lobby in what was expected to be the final round of the jury selection process, Scharn reiterated that the state was requesting a mistrial — although he objected to the mistrial motion made by the defense.
That left Mills facing a courtroom where all of the attorneys involved in the case sought a mistrial for different reasons — but all having to do with the pretrial voir dire public questioning process of potential jurors.
Afterwards, Scharn said “I asked the judge to grant a mistrial after reviewing the voir dire questioning of the case.” Referring to defense attorney Lynch, who handled the voir dire questioning of potential jurors, Scharn said “He had injected too many facts of the case, along with his theories and arguments about what those facts suggested.”
Scharn said District Court Rules of Oklahoma prohibit attorneys on either side from injecting their opinion or their theories of facts in the case during voir dire questioning.
Also following the court action, Lynch had a different take and related the reasons the defense believed the mistrial was justified.
“There weren’t any theories or opinions,” Lynch said. “Everything was to try and determine if there was any bias.
“If the state is that scared of facts being in a case, maybe they should reevaluate if they want to take it to jury trial,” said Lynch.
Lynch said the reason for the mistrial could have been avoided.
“We originally requested the court have individual voir dire,” he said, meaning that each potential juror would have been questioned outside the hearing of the others, in case anything that could taint a potential jury was stated.
When that motion was not granted, Lynch said the defense asked for the questionnaire that was presented to jurors, which consisted of 11 pages of questions.
“This was a very preventable use of state funds,” he said, referring to expenditures trying to impanel a jury to hear the case.
Jameson family members were not in the courtroom but were disappointed by the outcome. Carl Jameson, said the family won’t quit fighting for justice for Bart Jameson.
A probable cause affidavit filed in the case by McAlester Police Officer Danny McHenry states he responded to a report of an accidental shooting at a McAlester residence around 2:13 a.m. on Jan. 19, 2019. He said he found Bart Jameson shot and lying on the floor.
Based on statements from witnesses and from Savage, police arrested Savage and she was subsequently charged with murder by the district attorney’s office.
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org