ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) — The capital murder trial of Elkmont teen Mason Sisk abruptly ended in a mistrial on Monday morning. His defense team hadn’t called a single witness before Limestone County Circuit Judge Chad Wise made the seemingly “sudden” decision.
News 19 is analyzing what exactly this means for the future of the case and whether the judge had any other options.
As previously reported, this happened because the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) only recently cracked a victim’s cell phone and the parties needed time to review all the evidence.
In light of the defense receiving data records from Mary Sisk’s cell phone over the weekend, Judge Wise decided that the proceedings could no longer move forward.
Former U.S. Attorney Jay Town says a mistrial was the best option.
“It was really the only decision the judge can make and as disappointing it is to all of those involved [including] the victim’s family members,” Town explained. “Brian Jones, the district attorney, who’s a great DA, butted ‘Give credit to the FBI, they could have just moved on to other devices [since it is] very difficult to crack into Apple devices especially.”
Before declaring the mistrial, Judge Wise contemplated a short pause in the trial to allow the parties to review the evidence.
“Perhaps the judge could have delayed it four or five days and given them time to through it,” Town said. “But then jurors start to lose memory of and only might be able to rely on their notes for the ultimate conclusion of the case, and you don’t want that either.”
“That’s why a mistrial really was… it’s not a popular option,” Town said. “Certainly not the first option anybody hoped for here, but it probably was the right decision.”
Town says a mistrial isn’t a cause for celebration by the defense. It’s like hitting a reset button.
Judge Wise has already decided when to press play, Sisk’s new trial date is set for February 13, 2023. An entirely new jury is required.
News 19 asked Town whether public knowledge of the previous trial, including news that Mason Sisk confessed, would make it harder to pick a new jury.
“Don’t forget that we’re not just looking for 12 jurors that know nothing about the case and have never heard of this defendant or the five people that were murdered,” Town continued. “You just have to have 12 people that will rely on the evidence that’s presented in the courtroom and discard anything that they’ve ever hard outside of the courtroom.”
Town says a mistrial could actually strengthen the prosecution’s case because the judges ruling takes away the phone issue as grounds for an appeal.
The former prosecutor says the Limestone County DA’s office should want to try a case that can withstand scrutiny.