Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mistrial declared in double DUI manslaughter case

NEW PORT RICHEY — They squeezed more than 33 hours of evidence and testimony into three long days — and one late night — in Courtroom 2A.

The prosecution and defense in the double DUI manslaughter trial of Shannon L. Stephen gave jurors plenty to think about. Maybe too much.

"We the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision in this case," the foreman told the court late Wednesday night.

After three hours of deliberations — and a judge's order to try again — the jury deadlocked. The panel of three men and three women could not unanimously decide whether Stephen was behind the wheel of his pickup when it plowed into a couple, killing them.

Circuit Judge Jack Day declared a mistrial at 10:36 p.m. Barring some kind of deal, there will be a new trial.

The jury appeared split 4-2 for a guilty verdict. That's what the state told Mark Crispino, brother of victim Joseph Swiech.

"We've had trial dates since October of last year that just keep getting pushed off and postponed," Crispino said Thursday. "It's disappointing that it ends with a mistrial and knowing we have to do this again, knowing that we were so close to a guilty verdict"

•••

Joseph Swiech, 26, and Sarah Gleason, 24, were killed while walking along Grand Boulevard in the early morning hours of March 26, 2006. They had been drinking at Chasco Fiesta and chose not to drive home.

Authorities say Stephen made another choice. He's accused of drunkenly stumbling out of a bar, climbing in his pickup and running the couple over.

Stephen, 36, faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted of two counts of DUI manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of an accident involving death.

Defense attorney Kenneth Foote pointed out Florida Highway Patrol's numerous errors in the investigation, and said no witness could place Stephen behind the wheel when the couple was killed. Foote's theory: a friend drove, then left Stephen behind to take the blame.

Prosecutor Eric Rosario had witnesses testify that Stephen was heavily intoxicated and was found in the truck minutes after the couple was hit.

•••

Testimony went until 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. The case went to the jury at 7:13 p.m. Wednesday.

Why did jurors have to work so long and so late?

The judge set aside four days for the trial (his vacation was to begin today). All sides agreed to work late — including the jurors, the judge said. But once the case was over late Wednesday, he thought it best if jurors deliberate while it was fresh in their minds. The jury didn't even order dinner.

"They kept giving me the impression they wanted to keep plugging away," Day said.

Jurors did not return calls for comment Thursday. The judge said they were remorseful that they couldn't reach a verdict. Day told them not to be.

"They didn't fail," the judge said. "It's people taking principled positions on what they believe about the evidence and the burden of proof. That's what the system is all about."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.

Mistrial declared in double DUI manslaughter case 06/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 5:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea

    National

    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too lengthy. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  4. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography

    Crime

    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea

    Politics

    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.