Friday, January 18, 2019

Judge wrong to dismiss a gun indictment after two hung juries

A Pittsburgh federal judge was wrong to dismiss an illegal gun indictment against a Hill District man after two juries couldn't reach a verdict, an appellate court has ruled in a case of first impression, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the March 2017 decision by U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon, clearing the way for a possible third trial for Raymont Wright.
Wright, a convicted felon in his mid-40s, had been under indictment since December 2014 on a charge of carrying an illegal gun following a chase and crash near the former Civic Arena in July of that year.
Police said he had a gun after the crash but he suggested they planted it.
He went to trial twice within 10 months and both times juries couldn't come up with a verdict.
After the second mistrial, the U.S. attorney's office wanted to try again but the judge said no, invoking her powers of "inherent authority" as a federal judge.
She dismissed the indictment with prejudice, meaning it can't be filed again, and said she found that Wright's "interest in finality outweighs the government's interest in continuing its prosecution."
She also noted in her opinion, however, that the 3rd Circuit was sure to look at her decision carefully.
It's the first time the issue of a judge's authority to dismiss charges after multiple mistrials has come up in the 3rd Circuit.
Two of three circuit judges, Theodore McKee and Patty Shwartz, said Judge Bissoon abused her inherent authority because there is no evidence of government misconduct.
A third judge, Richard Nygaard, disagreed and said the dismissal was "well within the boundaries" of Judge Bissoon's powers as a judge.
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