Scales of Justice

A Sioux County Court case has taken a few unexpected twists and turns in recent weeks.

Laura Finley is charged with failing to stop and report a traffic accident that caused property damage, a Class II misdemeanor, in connection with a Jan. 5 accident in Harrison. She’s also facing a Class III misdemeanor criminal mischief charge in connection with the same incident.

Finley fought the charges in court, and her jury trial last month ended in a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct. Now, her attorney, Public Defender Jerrod Jaeger, is asking the court to allow Finley to withdraw her plea and has filed a plea in bar motion, which addresses whether the action is barred by double jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor Daniel Skavdahl is asking the court to rescind Finley’s indigent status, revoking her rights to a public defender, and seeking restitution to the county for all of Jaeger’s services to date.

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The motions will be heard by Judge Russell Harford July 24, which is when Finley was expected to go before a second jury. The arguments on the motions will be heard at 9 a.m. in the Dawes County Courtroom in Chadron.

The mistrial was granted after Jaeger argued that a line of questioning by Skavdahl so prejudiced the jury that Finley couldn’t receive a fair trial. Skavdahl’s continuing line of questioning revolved around whether or not Finley spoke with her father, a criminal defense attorney, about the accident prior to law enforcement’s arrival at her home five hours after the accident.

Jaeger repeatedly objected to Skavdahl’s questions, and Judge Harford sustained those objections, ultimately agreeing that Finley was entitled to a mistrial.

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