An appellate court affirmed the decision of the
Delaware County Court of Common Pleas to declare a mistrial after the defendant’s
attorney cited a polygraph test.
In State v. Hamon (
2015-Ohio-887), the defendant argued before the 5
th District Court of Appeals that the lower court had erroneously declared
a mistrial in his case after his defense attorney mentioned a polygraph
test. The defendant claimed that the lower court’s decision to declare
a mistrial directly resulted in his indictment not being dismissed. The
appeals court disagreed, affirming the Delaware County court’s decision.
The defendant was initially charged with three counts of
sexual assault on a child as well as three counts of
gross sexual imposition. While his case was still in pre-trial, the defendant and his attorney
filed a motion essentially asking the court to allow him to submit polygraph
test evidence. The court denied the motion saying that type of evidence
was inadmissible because it would have created prejudice.
Hamon’s defense attorney, while cross-examining one of the officers
responsible for investigating Hamon’s case, brought up the topic
of polygraph testing, and asked the officer if he had asked Hamon to take
this type of test – this question was in direct violation of the
court’s request to exclude polygraph information.
The Ohio judiciary has intentionally avoided defining exact qualifications
for declaring a mistrial. This is because Ohio courts have stated their
belief that granting a mistrial should be decided on a case-by-case basis,
considering all relevant factors.
When evaluating the case, the appellate court noted the defense counsel’s
impropriety in mentioning the polygraph, and consequently the high risk
of juror bias. There was also the factor of the tension between the court
and the defense counsel. Due to the contentious nature of their interactions,
the appellate court ruled that the jury could have been prejudiced against
the defendant because of his attorney’s conduct.