Judge Declares a Mistrial in the Case of a Woman Charged with the Killing of a Huston-Tillotson Team Member

Mistrials are rare but we see them from time to time. In a high profile case in Texas a mistrial has been declared after a jury was deadlocked in the trial of a woman charged in the 2011 stabbing death of a Huston-Tillotson University athlete in Austin.

In the case, the jury deadlocked 11-to-1 on May 8, 2013 in favor of conviction in the trial of Kaitlyn Ritcherson, a 21-year-old who is charged in the death of Huston-Tillotson women’s track team member and biology major Fatima Barrie.

The student athlete died in December 2011 of wounds she sustained during a fight outside an Austin club.

The prosecution built its case for first degree murder on claims that Ritcherson was acquainted with a man who was involved in an argument in the club that carried outside. She did not know the victim.

Ritcherson has maintained her innocence throughout the case.

A Travis County district judge declared a mistrial after a hung jury deliberated for almost two days but was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

“One juror will not change his vote,” said District Judge David Crain, according to a report in Statesman.com. It reported the jury was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of finding Ritcherson guilty. Crain received two notes from the jury, one Tuesday afternoon asking the judge for instructions on what to do next, and another just after lunch Wednesday saying they were still split 11-1.

Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb was quoted as saying he will try Ritcherson again, but he did not know when. “One person couldn’t be convinced while the others felt she committed murder. We are committed to trying her again,” he said, according to Statesman.com.

When a mistrial is called the trial is concluded without a decision for guilt or innocence.

A mistrial may also occur during the course of a trial, if one side violates rules of evidence, such as a prosecutor mentioning a defendant’s previous convictions.

When a trial ends in a mistrial, the state will often try the defendant again. However, a mistrial often suggests the prosecution’s case is weak and the charges may be dropped.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.