Eye For An Eye Argument? Mistrial Declared After Victim’s False Eye Pops Out While On The Stand

220px-ScleralLens1This is a problem that you don’t encounter everyday in court. Matthew Brunelli, 23, is being prosecuted for aggravated-assault for allegedly punching John “Big Red” Huttick so hard in the left eye during a bar fight in August 2011 that the eye had to be surgically removed. Big Red was on the stand tearfully recounting the fight when his glass eye popped out and he caught it in his hand in front of jurors. Common Pleas Judge Robert P. Coleman granted a defense motion for a new trial given the expected prejudice caused by the scene against Brunelli.

The case originated in a confrontation in the New Princeton Tavern in Burholme around 3 am when Brunelli’s girlfriend was being hit on by some men. Two men followed the couple into the parking lot. One notably included off-duty cop Brian Clerkin (it is not clear if Clerkin has been disciplined for his role in this fight). Brunelli is a 6-foot, 200-pound physical trainer knocked Clerkin off his feet and knocked out the other man. Huttick, 48, who once worked at the bar as a bouncer some two years prior, then came outside and intervened.

The defense insists that it has two witnesses who are prepared to testify that it was Huttick who attacked Brunelli who hit Huttick once in self defense after he was kneed in the groin. It also notes that Huttick is 6-3 and 315 pounds — 100 pounds heavier than Brunelli.

Prosecutors insist that Brunelli hit Huttick with some type of sharp object. The involvement of an off-duty police officer raises some obvious concerns about the prosecution of one party in a bar fight.

Brunelli, now a cook, could face 10 to 20 years in state prison. At the time of his arrest, he was on probation for theft and felony drug convictions.

A mistrial seems the only option for the court in such a clearly prejudicial scene. What do you think?

Source: Philly

23 thoughts on “Eye For An Eye Argument? Mistrial Declared After Victim’s False Eye Pops Out While On The Stand

  1. “A mistrial seems the only option for the court in such a clearly prejudicial scene. What do you think?”

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    I would think that the jury would be entitled to see the damage allegedly caused by the defendant. I’m not sure why this apparent accidental disclosure was any different than simply asking the alleged victim to show the injury. If it’s merely the element of surprise, I think a limiting instruction could have remedied the situation. I also think these Victorian notions of what prejudices juries is not based in reality. Most jurors can figure out a bar fight and give the defendant his due even if they see all the evidence.

  2. Bron,

    I’m with OS. You’ve been eating your “Extra Funny-o’s” lately.

    And what David said. The best way to avoid trouble is not to be there when it starts.

  3. Gene H:

    how could you not resist this story?

    The credit goes to Prof. Turley, he has been serving up some dandies lately, ripe for the picking.

    I catch the low hanging fruit. :)

  4. Gene H:

    I am sure everyone who read this story wanted to say that, I just have less restraint.

    Maybe my pregenual anterior cingulate cortex is out of kilter?

  5. A limited instruction may have been the best remedy. However, how in the hell do you instruct a jury to ignore seeing AN EYE POP OUT!

  6. I agree with mespo that a limiting instruction should have been sufficient in this instance. At some point in the trial, plaintiff’s counsel would have certainly offered evidence concerning the effects of having to live the rest of your life with only one eye, and would have had his client demonstrate the limitations imposed by that condition. I suspect the mistrial was seen as the safest route to avoid possible reversal, but I believe defense counsel and the court overreacted.

  7. In the next trial, if it happens again, then an eye for an eye ruling would be appropriate. Dismiss charges with prejudice.

  8. Story from a short story book I read long ago — A Yiddish-speaking man in adult ed class for ESL is asked to write English sentences and writes, “Mine uncle said he will buy for me a suitcase so I said if your eye falls on a bargain, pick it up.” The other students mocked him so he said, triumphantly, “Mine Uncle got a glass eye!”

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