A Pennington County judge denied a mistrial with prejudice in the second-degree murder trial Thursday, but called the state's errors in the case "grossly negligent."
Circuit Court Judge Matt Brown ordered that a retrial for Barry Allman's second-degree murder trial case should be scheduled as soon as possible and that the State's Attorney's Office be assessed the cost of assembling and seating the jury for the mistrial.
Allman is facing second-degree murder charges and mandatory life in prison without parole in the Aug. 6, 2020, death of 33-year-old Lance Baumgarten, who was stabbed in the chest inside a Rapid City home and later died in the hospital.
Brown wrote in his memorandum decision that the errors made by the state were "grossly negligent, egregious, and caused serious inconvenience, burden and cost" to the county, court, staff, jurors and Allman.
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During a Friday status hearing, Brown said the case would take precedence over other cases.
Allman's defense attorney, John Murphy, said Friday that they're disappointed in the denial for a mistrial with prejudice, which would have meant Allman could not be tried again for the crime, but pleased the state was ordered to repay the cost of the jurors in the initial trial.
"We are pleased with the analysis and findings as to the egregiousness of the state's misbehavior," he said.
Brown declared a mistrial in the case on the second day of the December trial after discovering prosecutors failed to inform the defense that immunity was granted to three key witnesses.
In the decision, Brown wrote the timeline of discovery requirements and the actions of counsel for both the state and Allman.
Brown stated the state granted Tyra Afraid of Lightning, the first witness in the trial, immunity Nov. 30, 2021, about a week before testimony started. However, the state did not inform Murphy of the immunity for Afraid of Lightning and two other witnesses until Dec. 7, the second day of trial and the first day of testimony.
It was also found that Alex Durroh, another witness in the case, had three bench warrants in regards to seven criminal charges quashed, which was not disclosed to Murphy.
"Alarmingly, the position taken by the state was not only did they not provide this information to defense counsel, but that they were not required to since quashing arrest warrants in exchange for a witness testimony 'did not confer a benefit,'" Brown wrote.
The judge wrote that the court agrees with the state in part that the quashing of warrants was a "sincerely held belief" by the lead prosecutor but is less convinced about the weight to be given to the state's attorney's recollection in providing immunity agreements prior to Dec. 7.
Brown wrote granting a mistrial with prejudice would require the court to find the state's actions had the intention to goad the defense into a mistrial, and the court would have to be convinced the state conferred numerous benefits to multiple witnesses in the process of trial preparation.
He found the defense's arguments for mistrial with prejudice to fall short.
"None of the analysis above in any way condones the reckless, negligent, and costly errors made by the prosecution team in this case," Brown wrote. "However, the analysis and rationale for the cumulative errors made by the state in this matter do not decisively lead the court to find the intent of the state was to cause a mistrial of the case."
Brown set a status hearing for the case for early February.
— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at email@example.com —