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Juror no-shows force mistrial in Wheeling murder case

WHEELING, W.Va. — An attempted murder trial ended before it started Tuesday, and Ohio County Circuit Judge David Sims is not happy about it.

Sims was forced to declare a mistrial because not enough prospective jurors showed up to hear the case against Kevin Alexander O’Brien, 26, of Wheeling, who is accused of breaking live-in girlfriend Ashley Sutton’s neck during an attack as another woman watched via a cellular phone Skype connection.

A panel of 40 people had been called for jury duty, but only 28 were present in the courtroom when the final jury selection process began. Sims previously excused six prospective jurors and another six failed to show up Tuesday morning as instructed.

Trial procedures call for the jury pool to be reduced through the voir dire process to 20 qualified jurors, at which time the defense attorney is permitted to strike six and the prosecution can strike two.

Defense attorneys Quan Lee and Don Yannerella and Assistant Ohio County Prosecutor Gail Kahle declined to waive their rights to strike, forcing Sims to declare a mistrial.

Because of a busy court docket, O’Brien waived his right to be tried in the current term of court ending Sept. 11. O’Brien remains free on bond pending a new trial.

Sims said he will summons the six no-shows into court to show cause for their absence.

“They will be called in to explain why they did not report,” he said. “They could be fined up to $1,000 each and made to pay the $40-per-day cost of prospective jurors who were sent home.”

Sims said the names of those who did not appear will be placed back into the jury pool for future jury service.

Another case ended early on March 9 when Circuit Judge James Mazzone declared a mistrial in the William Redman child-related sex crimes case because not enough jurors reported for service. That case was rescheduled and ended in a guilty verdict Friday.

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