Judge Dal Williamson cried foul Tuesday in the case of a man accused of bludgeoning another with a baseball bat last year.
The mistrial came in the wake of opening statements by defense attorney John Piazza, who noted to jurors that victim Stacy Pierce was in jail facing recent drug charges — an irrelevant detail since he hasn’t been convicted, Williamson said. The fact also doesn’t speak to Pierce’s honesty if he were to give testimony against defendant Dwayne Wilson, who is charged with aggravated assault, said the judge.
However, Pierce’s testimony will have to wait until March of next year. The jury present that morning — three black women, two black men, six white women and two white men — was dismissed and will be replaced for the new trial.
Williamson said even if Pierce isn’t a “model citizen,” it is irrelevant to bring up alleged incidents from outside this case.
“The arrest of Mr. Pierce on an unrelated incident would not have any relevance to this trial today,” Williamson said. “It would be prejudicial, even though we’ve acknowledged he’s had problems before. But the fact that he was arrested would not have any relevance.
“The implication is to try to say to the jury that, in this subsequent charge, he must have been acting in conformity with his actions on Oct. 5, 2019, which is not permissible. … I am declaring a mistrial and beginning again with another jury.”
During their opening statements, Piazza and Assistant District Attorney Dennis Bisnette painted distinctly different pictures of the evening of Oct. 5 last year. Bisnette opened by saying problems between the men began after the victim allegedly tripped over a Bluetooth speaker at a party.
The speaker still worked, but the defendant’s girlfriend got onto Pierce for it, Bisnette said.
“(Pierce) will tell you that at some point, a bat was produced, and he was struck in the mouth, both arms and the chest,” he said. “Eventually the injuries were a broken nose, his left arm was broken in three places, a broken right arm, fractured ribs, fractured eye (socket) and he lost five teeth. … For a while, Wilson denies doing anything. He eventually admits to hitting Pierce one time with a bat.”
Wilson told authorities that other people at the party jumped on Pierce and injured him, which Bisnette disputed. Bisnette argued that the incident didn’t occur at the party; that it occurred at a different location on 1st Avenue, suggesting Wilson may have followed the alleged victim.
Notably, Piazza suggested to the jury that Pierce brandished a knife before the attack and told Wilson, “Kill or be killed — I’ve killed before.”
“Mr. Bisnette began by talking about who he says is the victim, Stacy Pierce,” Piazza said. “Wilson says Mr. Pierce was coming toward him with a knife. You’ll hear the state of mind that Wilson was in, as he knows the alleged victim to be a dangerous person. … He had a knife and he was showing out. (Sgt. John) Stringer, who is here to testify, will tell you he knows Stacy and that he’s had to fight him in the past.
“If you’ve ever been around someone like that, someone who’s drunk, when they’re on one, it’s a totally different level. He was going around threatening everybody. He had a knife and he was showing out. I do know one truth: Whatever a man soweth, he reapeth.”
“At what point does it go from self-defense to aggravated assault?” Bisnette said. “When your teeth are knocked out? When you’re on the ground? I want you to pay attention to everything said.” Bisnette then said that the video interviews of Wilson about to be shown in court might be “hard to hear.”
The judge, however, made his declaration before that evidence was shown.
Said Police Chief Tommy Cox last year, “You have a right to defend yourself, but at some point, it gets to be overkill. The threat was over long before the beating was.”
Wilson was released last year after posting a $50,000 bond.