The Superior Court declared Friday a mistrial in the ongoing jury trial of a man who has been accused of rape.
Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto Naraja cited “prosecutorial misconduct” for declaring a mistrial in the ongoing jury trial of Manolo Romolor.
“After reviewing the parties and listening to the arguments, and the audio of the trial, I am declaring a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct. The written order will follow explaining the court’s reasoning in detail. Briefly the court would like to note that there were nearly 80 objections against the Commonwealth, a curative instruction to mischaracterization of the Commonwealth, and numerous instances of testifying and inappropriate use of the complaining witness’ first name. These excessively large amount of errors infected the trial…continued instruction could only shield the jury so much,” Naraja said.
A mistrial means the trial has been terminated or declared void, but it does not mean charges have been dropped. The prosecution will be able to dismiss the charges, a plea agreement could be discussed, or the case will re-start.
Romolor is charged with sexual assault in the first degree and disturbing the peace.
According to Naraja, the official written ruling would be released after he determines whether the prosecutorial misconduct was intentional or not. The case was being prosecuted by assistant attorney general Teri Tenorio.
“The issue whether the prosecutorial misconduct was intentionally meant to cause a mistrial remains under advisement and this would give the court time to issue its written ruling by next week,” Naraja said. “This would also give the parties enough time to look at the written ruling and decide their own course of action.”
A status conference for Romolor is set for March 19 to determine how both parties want to proceed with the case.
During Romolor’s jury trial last Tuesday, defense lawyer Bruce Berline called for the declaration of a mistrial, accusing Tenorio of incompetence and an inability to defend the victim and the CNMI government.
“I want to be in trial with a competent prosecutor. That’s how trials are supposed to go, somebody who knows the rules of evidence, knows her duty to protect the system, protect the jurors, to protect the witnesses, and to protect the Judiciary. That’s the duty of the prosecutor,” he said.
Berline said Tenorio was vouching for the witness, misstated testimonies, and testified for the witness.
Tenorio argued that the Commonwealth acted in good faith and that Romolor’s due process rights were not violated, therefore the motion for mistrial should not be granted.