A local man’s trial by jury in progress for less than a full day will start anew after a mistrial was declared and jurors were dismissed Wednesday afternoon.
The trial phase for Richard C. Butler, 43, of Atchison, will extend into spring with a new jury to determine his innocence or guilt concerning multiple accusations involving sexual violence.
Judge Robert Bednar stopped the initial trial in its second day of testimony soon after it resumed from about a half hour after jurors returned from their lunch hour break. Bednar announced the finding of a mistrial due to a remark concerning inadmissible evidence concerning the defendant’s criminal history made a few minutes earlier during testimony in the presence of the jury.
The remark, heard during witness testimony, was in reference to a criminal threat charge filed against Butler. Bednar said the matter is his first mistrial because of an “egregious mistake” that is not the fault of the victim, the defendant or the attorneys.
During the morning session, a matter of inadmissible evidence was at the center of some concern. The testimony of Melissa Clowers, during her cross-examination, was interrupted. All jurors were excused from the courtroom for recess while attorneys approached the bench after Atchison County Attorney Sherri Becker raised concern about references to inadmissible evidence on the police statement under questioning from Ki Ann Caprice Spradlin, Butler’s court-appointed defense counsel.
Butler’s new trial is on the calendar for Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Atchison County District Court. A four-day block is reserved to complete the trial. Jury selection is tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday, March 16, one day before the trial begins, which will allow potential jurors time to rest and relax before they report for duty on trial day. Considerations of potential pre-trial motions are scheduled for the 9 a.m. criminal docket Friday, March 6, in district court.
The felony complaint against Butler was filed May 13 in district court, alleging rape; two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy; aggravated kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated domestic battery; two counts of criminal threat; and criminal damage to property, all felonies. The complaint also includes two misdemeanor offenses: intimidation of a victim and harassment by a telecommunication device. The charges arose from an incident on or about May 11 at an Atchison residence. The crimes arose from a dispute involving a 53-year-old woman with whom Butler had resided with.
After the announcement of a mistrial, Bednar ordered the audience and all others to clear the courtroom so that he could speak with the jurors in private, and answer any questions they might have concerning the procedure. After the five men and seven women comprising the jury panel were dismissed from duty, the court session re-convened in open session and trial date was continued to its new date.
Atchison police arrested Butler on May 11 and he remains in custody at the Atchison County Jail, pending fulfillment of a $100,000 bond agreement.