What to expect when the Chandler Halderson trial resumes
How much will the COVID-19 delay affect the high-profile murder case?
MADISON, Wis. — The Chandler Halderson trial will resume this week after an unprecedented pause when Halderson himself tested positive for COVID-19.
The delay could pose some challenges for both sides in the case.
When the trial resumes, prosecutors will have to try to pick up where they left off, while Halderson’s defense team will have to try to overcome the jury thinking about the state’s case for several additional days.
Local defense attorney Jessa Nicholson says if she was on Halderson’s defense team, that would have been an area of concern for her — and one of the reasons why she would have wanted a mistrial, starting the case over again with a new jury.
“I would’ve been very concerned about having a break that long in the middle of the state’s case,” Nicholson says.
Halderson’s defense team has said that they do not plan to pursue a mistrial after talking over their options with Halderson himself. But Nicholson says the defense could face an even bigger uphill climb than they were already facing with what she believes is a very strong case by prosecutors.
The case also faces the challenge of possibly being compromised by jurors accessing information during they wouldn’t — and shouldn’t — otherwise have in the middle of the case. Nicholson says it’s a bit of “magical thinking” to assume jurors wouldn’t even inadvertently come across something that hasn’t been presented in the case.
“They’ve been told not to look at it but human curiosity is a really natural thing,” Nicholson said. “I think it provides a huge temptation to jurors to read about the case or seek out additional information.”
The 12-person jury in the Halderson case has six alternates — a number Judge John Hyland wanted for the case to protect against any COVID-related issues in the jury, but also something that could come into play if any jurors need to be excused after seeing or hearing something they shouldn’t.
Even if the case goes forward with all of the original jurors, lawyers on both sides of the case may take some time to get back on track after the unexpected pause. Nicholson says we might see arguments in the coming weeks provide somewhat of a refresher course on where the case left off last week.
“I expect both sides, both parties will want to provide some information, which again would be atypical,” Nicholson said. “Usually you don’t have summaries in the middle of a trial or other statements.”
It may also take some time for the attorneys to get back into the rhythm of the case after getting so close to the finish line in their arguments. Prosecutors had previously told the court that they had planned to rest their case this past Friday, meaning they only had a couple more days’ worth of testimony planned.
“I also expect the lawyers are going to take a little while to get back in their groove, and so it’ll probably be clunky and slow coming back,” Nicholson said.
Jurors will still have access to the notes they took throughout the trial before the pause, although those notebooks were collected by the court after the jurors left the courtroom on Wednesday.
If the prosecutors’ timeline from last week holds up, we could see closing arguments in the case before the end of this week.
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