The federal criminal trial against psychologist Judith Peterson, psychiatrists Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, therapist Sylvia Davis, and hospital administrator George Jerry Mueck came to a sudden conclusion when a mistrial was declared.
A juror was disqualified because he or she had inadvertently had contact with a prospective defense witness. The trial had begun on September 9 with 12 jurors and four alternates. For various reasons five of the panelists had been dismissed. This left eleven jurors. A federal jury can return a verdict with eleven jurors if both the prosecution and the defense agree. In this trial, however, the defense did not agree.
Government prosecutor Larry Eastepp said, "We were prepared to go forward with 11 jurors, but because all parties failed to agree, the law said we could not go forward. We have no problems with the defense attorneys making their decision. It was entirely their prerogative."
Defense attorney Dan Cogdell said, "The bottom line from the defendants’ side is we hope this will conclude the trial. When the government reviews the decision on whether to retry the case, they will review the evidence, the cost to taxpayers of tying up a courtroom another seven months, limited prosecutorial resources, and weigh the cost of additionally traumatizing witnesses. I think they will conclude that a retrial is not in the best interest of anyone."
On March 3, Judge Werlein will consider motions from both sides regarding further action in the case.
This summary is based on a Houston Chronicle article by Mark Smith, "Juror disqualification sparks mistrial in cult-memory case," 2/9/99.