Judge's order to disregard lawyer leads to mistrial


The trial of a man charged in the slaying of a longtime friend has ended in a mistrial after a Howard Circuit judge ordered jurors to disregard the defense attorney's "speeches and obnoxious comment."

Judge James Dudley declared the mistrial late Wednesday. He explained that his instructions to the jurors were prejudicial to defendant Troy Lynn Brooks.

"The court . . . found a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial to protect the rights of the defendant," Judge Dudley said in his order, which detailed the events that led to the mistrial.

During Wednesday's proceedings, the judge repeatedly admonished defense attorney William H. Murphy Jr., in front of the jury, to stop making comments and speeches during cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.

While Mr. Murphy was questioning one witness who admitted using crack cocaine, the lawyer commented to the jury that drug use had affected the witness's memory. Judge Dudley instructed the jurors to disregard that comment.

Later, at a bench conference, Mr. Murphy told Judge Dudley that the instructions to the jury prejudiced the defendant, who is charged with first-degree murder.

Judge Dudley's order said he had repeatedly asked Mr. Murphy if he wanted a mistrial, but Mr. Murphy declined to answer.

The judge stated that he declared the mistrial because he believed Mr. Murphy's characterization of the instructions to the jury was correct.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha said he expects Mr. Murphy to request dismissal of the charges against Mr. Brooks.

Mr. Murtha said he will oppose such a request and seek to have Mr. Brooks stand trial again. The trial had been postponed five times before this week.

Judge Dudley declined to comment on the mistrial, and Mr. Murphy could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Brooks, 29, of the Rockdale section of Baltimore County, is charged in the execution-style shooting death of Kevin Lee Holland, 27, of Baltimore on Oct. 10, 1992, outside the Woodstock post office.

Prosecutors contend that Mr. Brooks shot Mr. Holland because he was angry at the victim for smoking crack cocaine that Mr. Brooks intended to sell. The men had been friends since they were teen-agers.

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