Torre Jr. trial may be declared a mistrial as jurors may not show up

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Mark Torre Jr. (PNC file photo)

The former police officer implicated in the shooting death of fellow police officer Elbert Piolo appeared in court to find out if trial can resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But a survey of the jurors in the case has defense attorney Jay Arriola believing there are grounds for a mistrial.

Mark Torre Jr’s trial in the shooting death of Elbert Piolo has been on hold in light of the public health pandemic. While it did resume briefly, the declaration of Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 halted the trial once again.

Torre’s attorney, Jay Arriola, has pushed for the trial to resume, citing his client’s right to a speedy trial and his interpretation of the Supreme Court administrative orders to mean that ongoing trials such as Torre’s can move forward at the discretion of the presiding judge.

But the question the court wants to first answer is whether or not they can even get jurors to report to court for duty.

Superior Court Judge Arthur Barcinas said that while the original remedy for jurors failing to report is retrieval and possible jail time, he doesn’t think jury duty outweighs the health and safety concerns of jurors.

Chief prosecutor in the case Basil O’Mallen told the court that the survey reaffirms his concerns that it’s not wise to restart trial at this time, revealing that 9 jurors surveyed indicated they were afraid to come to court because of the pandemic. While others indicated that they are taking care of high-risk individuals in their homes.

Although Arriola refused to get into detail about the survey, stating it should be addressed under seal, he did take the stance that the survey results contain grounds for mistrial.

At least 5 of the current jurors out of the 15, including the alternate, have expressed a bias or health care reason for not continuing to serve in Torre’s trial.

Judge Barcinas, however, was not prepared to delve into the survey nor was he inclined to make the determination that the jurors are unwilling. Instead, the judge opted to provide the government with time to file a motion objecting to the restart of trial.

O’Mallen has until Monday to file the motion which will be entertained by the court on October 21st.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.

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