A malfunction in courtroom recording equipment prompted a judge Wednesday to declare a mistrial in the case of murder defendant Patrick Deon Ragland.
That means a new trial will have to be rescheduled. Ragland, 40, is accused of murder in the beating death of Kerry "Sam" Mitchell, 35, who was found dead and lying face down in a closet in his North Limestone apartment on Dec. 28, 2010.
Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone declared the mistrial just before the start of the third day of Ragland's trial in Lexington.
The day began with a 25-minute bench conference among Scorsone, the prosecution and defense attorneys. Scorsone then had the jury brought into the courtroom and told them that the courtroom recording equipment had not preserved Monday's opening statements by Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Lou Ann Red Corn or public defender Lucas Roberts, nor the testimony of the trial's first four witnesses. They were Amber Marshall, Mitchell's sister; Lexington Police officer Ricky Lynn, the first officer on the scene; Lexington police Detective Eric Chumley; and Lexington police Sgt. John Sebastian.
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Their testimonies were used to introduce the approximate date of Mitchell's death (he had been dead several days before his body was found); the date the body was found; and the fact that police had secured the scene.
The recordings are crucial in the event that the case is appealed to a higher court, Scorsone explained to the jurors. If either the defense or prosecution argues that a mistake was made, the recordings are used by appellate judges to determine whether a reversible error was made. Without that recording, appellate judges would not be able to make a determination.
Scorsone apologized to the jury, Ragland and the families of Ragland and Mitchell for the delay.
Scorsone scheduled a status hearing for Aug. 9, when a new trial date might be scheduled.