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ELLSWORTH — A judge Friday declared a mistrial in the case of a Massachusetts state trooper who was being tried on an operating while under the influence of alcohol charge in Hancock County Superior Court. During the lunch break, one of 12 jurors overheard a cell phone conversation and realized — too late — he had overheard the defendant, Joseph A. Grant.
Justice Kevin M. Cuddy declared the mistrial at 1 p.m.
Cuddy said the juror notified him and that the juror advised the incident would affect his ability to be fair and impartial.
The trial was expected to last a day. An alternate juror had been released that morning.
A new trial will be scheduled within the next several weeks, according to Cuddy.
The mistrial was called after three hours of testimony by Bar Harbor Police Officer Soren Sundberg, who pulled Grant over on Sept. 16, 2007. Grant had been in Bar Harbor for a wedding.
Grant allegedly had been driving 80 miles an hour and had crossed the inner line of a double yellow line on Route 3 when Sundberg stopped him, according to court testimony.
Grant first told Sundberg he hadn’t had anything to drink. Then he said he had a drink with dinner. At the station, when Grant refused to take an Intoxilyzer test, he allegedly told Sundberg he’d had a drink “a little while ago,” Sundberg testified.
Defense attorney Wayne Foote, who specializes in OUI cases, represents Grant.
“It is not illegal to drink and drive in the state of Maine,” Foote told the jury. “It’s illegal to drink to the point you’re impaired.”
Foote dissected Sundberg’s procedures for the field sobriety tests during his cross-examination of the Bar Harbor officer.
Grant had allegedly failed a one-leg stand test, which entails standing with one foot raised off the ground about 6 inches while counting out loud (one thousand one, one thousand two and so on) until asked to stop.
Sundberg testified that he had given Grant the instructions twice — the initial full version, then a recap. This procedure differs from the standardized instructions.
“At the end there’s no recap, is there?” Foote asked. “Here you are, you’re giving him longer instructions than the standardized instructions.”
“Correct,” Sundberg replied.
Foote said his client had advised the officer he had a bad hip and that Sundberg should have given him tests other than balance tests.
Grant fractured his pelvis during an incident while on duty in 1989, Foote said.
Grant, who is a 23-year veteran of the Massachusetts State Police, was expected to take the stand in his own defense. Grant is an investigator specializing in auto thefts.
Foote was also to call an expert witness on Grant’s behalf, Concord, N.H., toxicologist JoAnn Samson.
Samson taught 16 years at the New Hampshire State Police Academy and has trained officers in what to look for in a person who is impaired.
Foote advised the jury in his opening statement that Samson would testify she had watched a video of Grant during the two-hour booking process and saw nothing to suggest the officer was impaired.

ELLSWORTH AMERICAN
 
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