Mistrial declared in Harold Campbell murder trial
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - A mistrial has been declared in the second-degree murder trial of Harold Campbell.
Campbell, 46, of Lake Charles, is accused of murdering his wife, Edwina Campbell, in 2019.
Testimony began this week but Campbell’s defense attorney, Todd Clemons, filed an appeal with the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal, saying he should have been allowed to question the 12 jurors and two alternates further to make sure they understood juries could return a lesser verdict even if the state proved Campbell committed second-degree murder.
“They clearly have the authority to reach a compromise verdict of a lesser offense, even if the evidence of the charged crime is overwhelming,” Clemons said. “That’s not Todd Clemons, that’s the Louisiana Supreme Court.”
The Third Circuit granted the appeal, saying in a strongly-worded ruling that an earlier ruling was not followed and ordered the court to resume questioning of jurors - an unusual situation since opening statements had already been given and testimony had already begun.
During the resumed questioning, Clemons exercised challenges to remove 4, leaving only 10 jurors.
Judge Robert Wyatt declared a mistrial.
Assistant District Attorney Charles Robinson said he disagrees with the Third Circuit’s order.
“The appellate court made that decision without having all the facts before they had a transcript of what actually occurred,” Robinson said. “We believe the trial court was in the best position to make the best decision, which it did. And we believe that while we respect the appellate court, we believe they got this one wrong.”
Clemons expects the ruling to result in more latitude for defense attorneys during jury questioning.
The state plans to retry Campbell on a second-degree murder charge; although, Clemons says he will ask the appeals court for a ruling on that, too.
“I want to see what the Third Circuit says about whether jeopardy attaches when the error was made by the district attorney and the court,” Clemons said.
“When a legal verdict cannot be reached, jeopardy doesn’t attach and doesn’t prevent you from being prosecuted for the same offense again,” Robinson said.
Read the Third Circuit’s ruling below.
Copyright 2021 KPLC. All rights reserved.