A motion based upon objections to alleged courtroom "histrionics" for a new trial for Salt Lake attorney Dean R. Mitchell, found guilty of injuring four people while driving drunk, has been denied by a judge.
After hearing testimony from justices of the peace, newspaper reporters and a court clerk, 8th Circuit Judge Joseph Dimick refused to dismiss the findings of a 5th Circuit jury trial in which Mitchell was found guilty of three counts of causing injury in a drunken driving accident.Following a party at 5th Circuit Judge Eleanor VanSciver's home Dec. 6, 1986, the car Mitchell was driving collided with a van at 2925 S. Highland Drive, injuring four members of the Ole Pederson family, one of them seriously.
Mitchell's attorney, Ron Yengich, said he would appeal the case, effectively staying Mitchell's sentence of six months in jail and a $2,500 fine issued Feb. 5 by Dimick. Dimick was hearing the case because of Mitchell's many acquaintances in the 5th Circuit Court.
Yengich filed a motion for a new trial following closing arguments in February when Yengich said Deputy County Attorney Roger Blaylock violated the 14th Amendment ensuring due process when he admitted he did not call more witnesses during the proceedings.
In closing arguments, Blaylock told the jury he did subpoena additional witnesses in the trial in order to expedite the proceedings, "having the jury believe there was no other evidence," Yengich said.
Additionally, Yengich said "histrionics" employed in the courtroom by Mitchel Zager, an attorney representing the victims of the accident in a 3rd District civil suit, contaminated the jury, making jurists unfit to weigh evidence.
"The disruptions in the court (by Zager) so contaminated a fair trial that the court has no other alternative but to call for a new trial," Yengich said.
Zager is representing the Pedersons in the civil case against the VanScivers, which claims they are partly responsible for the Pedersons' injuries because they permitted Mitchell to drive home. Zager has said Mitchell's conviction would aid his civil case.
Blaylock called Joann Rigby and Peggy Acomb, two justices of the peace observing the trial, and court clerk Carolyn Beal to testify, while the court ordered two newspaper reporters who covered the trial to the witness stand.
Witnesses testified that Zager was moving around the courtroom frequently throughout the trial, more often creating distractions while the defense was making its case than when the prosecution attorneys were making theirs.
But Dimick said Zager's movement, while visible, did not prejudice the jury, which he said was an unusual and hard-working panel, some of whose members even took notes on evidence.
"I thought it was a remarkable jury . . . I don't think they missed the evidence," he said, adding that Zager's activity may have worked in favor of the defense.
"I should have thought it would have been an asset," Dimick said. "I did not perceive an atmosphere in which the desire to prosecute Mitchell was affected."
Dimick denied in February a dismissal motion based upon an assertion by Yengich that Mitchell's blood tests, showing Mitchell's blood-alcohol content to be 0.25 percent, were unconstitutionally admitted as evidence.