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Mistrial forces new trial in Baton Rouge hit-and-run case

Because defendants are presumed innocent until guilt is proven, prosecutors are responsible for presenting evidence to support the state's case. A Louisiana jury then assesses whether evidence is sufficient to convict. A conviction is impossible when jurists do not agree a defendant is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

A 50-year-old Baton Rouge man will be tried a second time on a hit-and-run charge involving the 2012 death of a bicyclist. A mistrial was declared when the six-member jury could not reach a consensus. The criminal defense attorney's client denied several allegations made by prosecutors.

Prosecutors said the defendant's blood alcohol content level registered 0.088 percent several hours after the fatality. The state's intoxication limit is 0.08 percent. The defendant said he had not been drinking.

The accused man also rejected the prosecution's claim that the driver failed to stop and render aid. The defendant stated he stopped and tried to exit his vehicle, but was threatened by others at the crash scene. The man said fear, not intoxication, caused him to drive home and ask a friend to take him to a police station.

Reports said the late-night accident occurred when the defendant's Mazda struck the rear of a bicycle; the defendant argued that the bike hit his car. The female rider was ejected and landed in an oncoming traffic lane, where the bicyclist was struck and killed by an SUV. The victim was not wearing reflective gear or a helmet.

Prosecutors said the defendant was unlicensed, uninsured and driving a vehicle without a license plate. A hearing was set for July to choose a new trial date. A conviction carries a possible 10-year prison term.

Mistrials are declared when a verdict cannot be determined. In trials with six-person juries, a unanimous verdict is required. Another criminal trial may take place after a mistrial, although the state also can opt to drop the case.

Source: The Advocate, "Mistrial declared in hit-and-run death of bicyclist" Joe Gyan Jr., May. 09, 2014

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