Criminal Justice

Judge says lawyer defending himself in shooting trial 'lost the jury'; mistrial is declared

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A judge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, declared a mistrial on Wednesday and appointed counsel for a lawyer defending himself in the shooting of a homeless man.

Judge Allen Smith said the problems began when criminal defense lawyer, David “Chip” Venie, called the victim, Stephen Biddinger, a “methed-out lunatic,” in opening statements, KRQE reports. Venie showed jurors a mug shot of Biddinger with the word “busted” written over it, Smith said. Venie persisted with the same questions despite repeated objections, he added. The Albuquerque Journal and KOB also have reports on Smith’s decision.

The Albuquerque Journal described Venie’s conduct during trial this way: “Venie’s frequent arguments with the judge, and conduct that Smith found violated pretrial orders, led to frequent bench conferences with attorneys and eye-rolling by jurors. It also meant that the trial proceeded haltingly because of the interruptions.”

Smith said the jury was no longer “attentive to this case,” according to the KOB account. “We lost the jury,” Smith said.

In court on Tuesday, Venie accused the judge of conveying the impression that he was guilty by commenting that a witness was confused by Venie’s questions.

Venie is charged with aggravated battery and aggravated assault for shooting Biddinger outside his law office in 2012. Venie says he was defending himself and shot Biddinger when he ignored a warning to leave. Venie’s wife recorded the shooting.

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