Defense wants court to declare proceedings a ‘mistrial’


The lawyer of a woman who is facing child abuse charges in the death of a 3-year-old boy asked the Superior Court last Thursday to declare the proceedings in the case a “mistrial” and accused the prosecution of not following the rules of evidence.

During the fourth day of the jury trial of Stacey Laniyo, defense counsel Mark Scoggins aired frustration over how slow the trial was because of what he described as the “prosecution’s endless efforts” to prove that one of its key witnesses, Lynn Fitial, is a hostile witness. He then verbally requested Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph Camacho to declare a mistrial.

“This trial needs to end, this is a mistrial. This prosecutor will not follow the rules. I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t understand how we can have a fair trial under these conditions. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s the most unethical behavior I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Scoggins’ main argument to support his verbal motion for a mistrial was that the prosecution, led by assistant attorney general Coleen St. Clair, continued to ask questions “that were not even relevant” to what Laniyo was being tried for—child abuse.

“We believed going into this case that the sickness of the boy was not going to be the focus, but what else have we talked about? Who gives a crap about how many times he vomited? It has nothing to do with whether this woman abused him and that’s all we’re talking about,” he said.

In addition, he said it is no longer a fair trial because the prosecution does not follow the rules of evidence.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never been in a trial where we get to the fourth day and we’ve had maybe an hour of substantive testimony. How many hours have we spent listening to arguments about hostile witness? As soon as counsel gets the opportunity, she starts making statements, from her mouth, not the witness’, about how there are inconsistent statements in the police reports and continuously trying to introduce facts not in evidence,” he said.

About the alleged tampering of statements that Fitial had alleged, Scoggins argued that the trial is no longer fair, now that the prosecution has made it seem like the witness was lying about that.

“She led the court to believe that this witness was a liar. The worst part is that some of this was presented to the jury,” he said.

After counsels spoke with Department of Public Safety investigator Rosa Rios, she told them that the statements were not in order when it was presented at court and that she did review the statements with Fitial and asked her to sign it upon reviewing it.

Fitial stood firm on her claims that she did not sign off on some of the statements, Rios had them mixed up with other witnesses, and that she did not see those statements when Rios reviewed them with her.

Camacho moved forward with the trial, called back the jurors, and instructed them to disregard the portion that Fitial read out loud and said she did not see.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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