A D.C. Superior Court judge presiding over the trial of a man accused of taking indecent liberties with a minor, declared a mistrial yesterday and dismissed the jury because, he said, a television news show that morning had broadcast a program on sex offenders that contained similarities to the case in his court.
Judge Paul F. McArdle made the ruling after rejecting suggestions from both the defense and prosecution that the jurors be polled to find out if any had watched the program, according to sources familiar with the case. The trial, in which the owner of a Northwest Washington upholstery store is accused of taking indecent liberties with the 10-year-old daughter of a friend, was in its second day.
According to sources close to the case, jurors on Wednesday heard testimony from the girl, now 12 years old, as she haltingly gave a detailed account of how she was allegedly assaulted.
Sources close to the prosecutors in the case said that although it is scheduled to be retried within two months, the girl might be reluctant to relate her story again, and the case would end if she did not testify.
Prosecutors had expected to call two additional witnesses yesterday when McArdle began the proceedings by saying that it had come to his attention that a national television news program that morning had shown a segment in which authorities described what they considered to be the typical offender in child molestation cases.
According to a courtroom observer, McArdle said that the contents of the television show bore similarities to the case on trial in his court.
McArdle said he does not watch morning television and had not seen the program, but heard it described to him by someone else. Reached at his home last night, McArdle declined to discuss the incident. "Don't call judges," he said. "Go check the record."
The defendant is Floyd A. Parker, also known as Michael A. Parker, of Kensington, who is accused of taking indecent liberties with the girl after arranging with her mother to pick her up at home. His lawyer, Jeffrey H. Leib, could not be reached for comment.
When McArdle asked Leib what he thought should be done because of the program having been broadcast, Leib suggested polling the jury to see if any had seen it, according to sources close to the case.
McArdle, Leib and prosecutor Susan Holmes discussed ways of polling the jury, which McArdle rejected, these sources said, saying that even mentioning the existence of such a show could taint the jury.
Finally, Leib left the courtroom and after conferring with other lawyers in the hallway returned and made a motion for a mistrial. McArdle concurred and set Feb. 1 as the date for selecting a new jury.