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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:A jury found appellee George Doyle guilty of murder on Sept. 10, 2003. Shortly after the jury delivered its verdict, his court-appointed attorney suffered a heart attack and died. The following day, Doyle’s new court-appointed attorney moved for mistrial, claiming that the death of Doyle’s trial counsel precluded Doyle from receiving effective representation during the punishment phase of the trial. In a hearing several days later, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for mistrial, citing the interest of justice and the court’s intent to avoid further delay and potential ineffective assistance claims based on representation by two different attorneys in the guilt/innocence and punishment phases. The state contends the trial court abused its discretion by: (1) granting a motion for new trial absent a written and filed motion; and (2) granting a new trial solely because the defendant’s trial counsel died shortly after the jury returned a guilty verdict and before punishment phase began. HOLDING:Affirmed. “The facts in this case are unique. We have found no case that addresses the issue of whether an attorney’s death, which occurred between the guilt/innocence phase and the punishment phase of a jury trial, necessitated a mistrial. The case law regarding the disability of an attorney at trial also is limited, generally turning on whether or not to grant a continuance.” Previous cases do not address the question of whether the grant of a mistrial was appropriate, rather than a grant of a continuance, when there was a disability or death of counsel. “We cannot say, under the facts and circumstances of this case, that the trial court abused its discretion in granting a mistrial. The trial court articulated valid reasons regarding why it considered a continuance inadequate. The record reflects that the trial judge, after hearing arguments on the motion for mistrial, stated concern about the possibility of an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel during the punishment phase. In addition, the trial court questioned the effect of a prolonged recess, estimated at a month or longer by the court, on the existing jury, given the media attention the case had received. The trial court would also not abuse its discretion by considering the scenario of the punishment phase being conducted by a new jury, and viewing the infringement on Doyle’s statutory right to have punishment assessed by the same jury as unfavorable.” OPINION:Yanez, J.; Hinojosa, Yanez and Castillo, JJ.

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