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Mistrial ordered in soldier's Colorado Springs murder trial

When it comes to criminal trials, there are very extensive rules governing what evidence is considered admissible and what evidence is considered inadmissible. That is because people's civil liberties are at risk, and our Constitution guarantees all defendants a fair trial before an impartial jury.

Therefore, when inadmissible evidence is inadvertently presented to the jury, the judge presiding over the case sometimes declares a mistrial so that a new jury made up of people who have not heard the prejudicial evidence can be selected.

This is what happened this week in a trial for a 20-year-old Fort Carson soldier who was charged with murder in connection to a 2010 drive-by shooting that occurred at a Colorado Springs Wal-Mart.

Ultimately, the prosecution sought to enter into evidence a video of a police interview with one of their key witnesses, another Fort Carson soldier who was in the car at the time of the shooting and agreed to testify against the defendant in exchange for immunity.

However, a part of the video that was supposed to be redacted because it was not allowed under the rules of evidence was accidentally shown to the jury. The public defender then asked the court for a mistrial and the judge granted it.

According to the Fourth Judicial District Chief Deputy Attorney, it was simply the result of "the wrong tape [being] played for the jury," but he said that everyone was "ill" about the mistake because the trial had gone on for days and it was expected to go to the jury after just a few more witnesses testified.

Apparently, the tape was only supposed to show the prosecution's key witness talking to a Colorado Springs police detective about the drive-by shooting, but instead it allegedly showed the witness telling the detective about a previous time in which the defendant threatened a woman with a gun.

The judge ordered the re-trial to be set for June 13, in which a new jury will decide if the defendant is guilty of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder after being accused of giving his gun to a 17-year-old and encouraging him to shoot and kill a 26-year-old man outside of a Wal-Mart store on East Platte Avenue.

Source: The Gazette, "UPDATE: 'Wrong tape' led to mistrial in Wal-Mart drive-by shooting case," Lance Benzel, 5/18/2011.

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