Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams’ trial on driving under the influence and traffic charges ended in a mistrial just hours after it began Monday after his lawyer objected to how jurors were selected.
Williams’ lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, asked for the mistrial Monday just before opening statements were about to begin. He said he was only able to excuse two jurors instead of the three he was entitled to during jury selection.
Judge Andre L. Rudolph granted the request and scheduled another trial on the misdemeanor charges for Aug. 15.
Afterward, Rudolph declined requests to comment on what went wrong.
Steinberg told Rudolph about the problem after jurors were selected.
”It’s a mistake in the math,” Steinberg said. ”We’re entitled to excuse three jurors.”
Prosecutor Brian Dunn objected to a mistrial being called but left without commenting.
Denver District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said attorneys do not have to use all their rights to excuse jurors, called preemptory challenges. During the process, each side has an opportunity to excuse a potential juror and not give a reason. The process leaves a jury that prosecutors and attorneys believe is impartial.
Kimbrough said Steinberg passed on one of his opportunities to excuse a juror, prompting a warning from Rudolph that Steinberg would not be able to use that turn. Rudolph then changed his mind and ruled that Steinberg should have been allowed to use his turn.
”Based on that misunderstanding he granted a mistrial,” Kimbrough said.
Misdemeanor cases in Denver County Court are heard by six jurors, not 12, said Karen Steinhauser, a former prosecutor with the DA’s office who’s now a defense attorney.
A jury of three men and three women, ranging in age from 20 to 61, were seated after questioning in the morning. Steinberg raised his objection to having lost a turn after Rudolph excused the jury for lunch.
Opening statements were scheduled to begin after the break.
Williams’ trial has already been delayed several times, including last fall after he suffered a dislocated right elbow during a game.
The Broncos stripped him of his captain’s title shortly after his arrest on Nov. 12, 2010, his second such arrest in his seven seasons in Denver. He could face a multi-game suspension from the league if convicted.
Police say he was pulled over a little before 3 a.m., when he was spotted driving his car without headlights. He was cited with DUI and taken to a detox facility.
He was fined an undisclosed amount by the team.
Williams, the team’s top tackler in 2010, dislocated his right elbow in a preseason game but came back to start in 13 regular season games and again lead the Broncos in tackles.
Williams has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn his NFL drug suspension without pay for Denver’s first six games of the 2012 season that starts in September. The lawsuit contends that the league violated protocol in collecting urine samples and that the specimen provided for testing by the collector were non-human.
Williams’ lawyer, Peter R. Ginsberg, said that case is pending.