The threat of a mistrial looms as the second day of Bibi Fafi’s trial ends
Defense attorneys called a mistrial three times on Tuesday with jury cases continuing in the Pepe Fafe trial on the second day. The jury was also reduced to 12 members after a second juror was excused of cause.
This trial is the second in the case against Lalo Anthony Castrillo IV. Castrillo was charged with willful abuse of a child, which resulted in death. If convicted, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The delay in the trial comes after 51 months of prior uncertainty. The pandemic, the plaintiffs’ failure to deliver documents promptly, the mistrial, the intervention of the New Mexico Supreme Court, the appointment of a new judge, and the resetting of the case have all contributed to the delay.
A second mistrial could be added to that list as the trial continues.
Catch up on the first day: One juror has been relieved, and two more are in question as Pepe Fafe’s trial begins in Las Cruces
“You all made a terrible jury choice.”
Judge James Waylon Counts, who has been appointed by the state Supreme Court to oversee the case and trial, expressed his frustration Tuesday morning as the jury cases debate heated up.
“You’ve all picked a terrible jury,” he joked.
As of the publication of this article, two of the jurors have been excused for cause, while there are questions about three others. Before trial, lawyers from both sides selected 14 jurors. Twelve will handle the case with two alternates in case of emergency.
The first juror was excused on Monday. She told the court that she had a close personal relationship with the mother of the child’s father, Fafi, and this relationship would prevent her from being neutral.
The second juror was dismissed on Tuesday. He said the cold temperature in the courtroom was causing him medical problems and preventing him from concentrating.
Moreover, he said that he had already decided on the case because he felt the defense was too aggressive when questioning Bibi Favi’s mother. Judge Coontz disagreed with the juror’s characterization of the cross-examination but excused the juror anyway.
Two jurors were excused. Four more questionable
That left 12 jurors, four of them besieged with questions.
A juror revealed during jury selection that she had known Baby Fafe’s mother in high school but never had any personal relationship with her. While Castrillo’s defense raised a problem with this, it didn’t amount to anything because they knew about it before the jury sat and could have removed her at that time.
Another juror told the court that he made eye contact with Fafi’s mother in court after the trial. A bailiff told the judge that they may have exchanged a word or two and that the security camera footage showed the interaction was brief. This issue, too, did not prove significant in itself.
But a third jury proved to be a more difficult problem. The juror told the court on Monday that she would have difficulty finding child support for her infant. She asked to be excused, otherwise she would have to bring her child to court. But the court did not reject it. Come Tuesday, she brought her baby to court. She told the judge she could have a family member pick up the child by 11 a.m
At first, it was not clear whether the same problem would delay or prevent proceedings for the rest of the week. However, the woman told the court that she could have babysitting arrangements for the rest of the week.
Another juror later complained of hearing “offensive” comments from one of the jurors. The judge, who relayed information from the record, noted that the remarks were disturbing but not necessarily relevant to the case.
It is unclear how all this will affect future actions. It took half a day to solve the jury’s problems, and the remaining members said they wouldn’t be able to trade on the weekend if it came to that.
Three motions to vacate the trial were denied
The jury situation also led to three mistrial calls from the defence.
José Coronado, Castrillo’s lawyer, said the total number of cases – and especially those related to the family ties to Fafi – could poison a jury’s opinion.
“It’s reasonable to conclude that there is something going on with the jury,” Coronado said.
The prosecution disagreed, saying that the events were mere disruptions and that the trial should continue.
“Miraculously, we still have 12 jurors,” Coontz said. “And I don’t think we have what we need for a false trial.”
In the end, Coontes rejected Coronado’s motions for a mistrial and allowed the trial to proceed.
Justin Garcia He is the public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be reached at JEGarcia@lcsun-news.com.
This article originally appeared on the Las Cruces Sun-News: The threat of a mistrial looms as the second day of Bibi Fafi’s trial ends