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Mullenix case avoids mistrial

July 07, 2008|By Michael Alexander

The murder and conspiracy trial of Rachael Mullenix nearly flew off the rails Monday afternoon, before the judge rejected a request for a mistrial by the defense and allowed the case to continue.

It all began as prosecutor Sonia Balleste cross-examined defense witness Veronica Thomas, a psychologist hired to evaluate Mullenix. In the PowerPoint presentation she used to illustrate her questions about the defendant’s psychology, Balleste included an image of a poem written by Mullenix, titled “Female Player.” But Judge David A. Thomas angrily stopped the proceedings, saying that the poem had been denied as admissible evidence.

While Balleste protested that she was only using the document because Thomas herself used it in her assessment, Thomas rejected that argument.

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“In my view, nothing should be published to the jury unless it’s admitted into evidence,” Thomas said.

Mullenix’s attorney, David Cohn, asked for a mistrial, saying the poem could have prejudiced the jury by playing into the prosecution’s claims she was a manipulator. But Thomas denied the motion, saying it was sufficient to instruct jurors to ignore the whole presentation.

“I don’t think this is a problem that can’t be cured,” Thomas said. “We’ll instruct the jury that nothing the attorneys say is evidence. Nothing shown to them on the overhead projectors is evidence.”

Prosecutors say that Mullenix manipulated her boyfriend Ian Allen into helping her brutally stab her mother, Barbara Mullenix, to death in the Huntington Beach condominium where the Mullenixes lived in 2006, then dumped the body in Newport Beach waters.

The rest of the day was the beginning of Cohn’s case to defend his client against those charges, but he began by saying that Mullenix’s first story to police — that Allen kidnapped her — was phony.

“You’re going to hear about the fact that there was this hatched plan to go out to Florida, and if anybody catches up, to say, ‘I kidnapped you,’” Cohn said. “Ian Allen was head over heels in love with Rachael. You’re going to hear the evidence that Ian Allen felt he was saving Rachael. He was even willing to take responsibility for even the aftermath and the cleanup.”

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