I’ve spoken at 2 CLEs in the last few weeks. Both presentations were to groups of public defenders. The first was on the topic of preserving a record on appeal. And the second was on motions practice in child abuse cases. Whenever I speak on these topics, I invariably hear the same response from folks

rubber stamp.jpgJudges seldom grant motions for new trial. I have various theories about why. And they range from being sympathetic to the judge to utter cynicism. Sometimes, there just wasn’t any harmful error. Sometimes, the judge couldn’t fathom that he made a mistake. Sometimes, it’s just too dang expensive to try the thing twice. And some

Preserves.JPGSo, I just got finished reading a transcript on a case I am appealing. Halfway through the trial, a witness for the State said something highly improper. Counsel moved for a mistrial. These moments in the reading of a transcript are a little like watching a really close college football game, because I am pulling for some magic words that preserved the record for appeal. So, I flip the page, and the lawyer explains why the testimony was improper and why a mistrial is necessary. Good stuff.

Cue the drama and suspense music. The judge dismisses the jury. As soon as the jury is out of the room, there’s a little more argument. The Court tells the State and the witness not to say it anymore. The Court makes the prosecutor warn all the other witnesses not to say it. The objection is sustained.

Then, the jury is asked back in, and the trial continues. No ruling on the motion. No renewal after corrective action. Nothing but a good appeal down the tubes. Mistrial issuesin a transcript are often the litigation equivalent of a Gilligan’s Island rescue. They almost preserve the issue for appeal, but they don’t quite make it.

So, since my theme this week is preserving the record for appeal, let me say a few things about managing mistrial motions in Georgia.


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