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Sanders-El v. Wencewicz

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Sanders-El claimed that prejudicial errors caused a judgment against his favor when police officers were granted judgment in a suit for using excessive force against Sanders-El.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Parties must be granted a new trial when errors influence the jury.

    Facts.

    Sanders-El was pulled over and arrested by police officers due to an outstanding warrant. After being placed in the police car, Sanders-El kicked open the door of the police car and fled. The police officers pursued Sanders-El and Sanders-El sustained injuries. Sanders-El filed suit and the first trial was ruled a mistrial, while the second trial granted judgment to the officers. Sanders-El claimed that prejudicial errors caused the ruling for the defendants.

    Issue.

    Whether parties must be granted a new trial when errors influence the jury?

    Held.

    Yes. The case is reversed and remanded. Opposing counsel influenced the jury’s judgment against Sanders-El by implying that Sanders-El had a strong criminal record. Although the opposing counsel was reprimanded for their actions, the sanctions did not reverse the influence made on the jury.

    Dissent.

    (Bowman, J.) The holding should be affirmed because there is no evidence that the court abused it’s discretion and there is no account of the factors the judge considered to determine that Sanders-El was not entitled to a new trial.

    Discussion.

    The standard of review for a mistrial is abuse of discretion. Improper questioning by opposing counsel can be considered to an abuse of discretion of the questioning provides information to the jury that should not be included in the trial.


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