JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (CNN) — An Indiana judge declared a mistrial in a case involving murder and cannibalism.
Joseph Oberhansley is facing potential life in prison, accused of viciously stabbing Tammy Jo Blanton to death then dismembering and eating parts of her body in 2014.
In earlier pre-trial hearings, it was decided that Oberhansley’s past drug use and his criminal record, including time behind bars, would not be brought up. But the state’s third witness did just that.
This witness is the friend that Blanton stayed with days before being murdered. She was clearly told by the prosecutor before the trial started to not talk about drugs or prison. The prosecutor tried to stop her as she was testifying.
The defense objected arguing for a mistrial.
“If you recall from jury selection, a lot of jurors can be affected by that. And so it was important that a mistrial was granted,” said Brent Westerfeld, Oberhansley’s attorney.
The judge declared a mistrial and released the jury, which is a difficult blow for both sides.
“We are very regretful that we didn’t get this case to a conclusion. we felt we had a very good jury. and we were optimistic,” Westerfield said.
“The last thing in the world I can do is put this family through another four or five years of delays trying to get a trial date. So if I’ve got to wait a week or two weeks behind schedule to get that done this summer, that’s fine. It’s far preferable to pushing it forward and getting it reversed in a year or two,” Clark County prosecutor Jeremy Mull said.
The next round of jurors will be coming again from Hamilton County because of pre-trial publicity. The plan is to start soon after labor day weekend.
“I hate that there’s going to be a delay in this case, but it should be a short delay the way things are looking right now,” Mull said.
The prosecutor says he is considering not using that witness in the future for the next trial. The judge set a new court date for Sept. 3. A new jury will need to be selected.