WEST PALM BEACH —
The trial of two men suspected of forcing a group of Delray Beach teens into performing sex acts on one another is scheduled to begin again Monday after a judge declared a mistrial in the case.
Prosecutors this week had neared an end of presenting a jury with evidence against Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson when a Delray Beach detective referenced in his testimony the fact that Henry invoked his right to an attorney when authorities arrested him.
Jurors in criminal cases are not allowed to hear that a defendant invoked his right to counsel because it may lead the jurors to speculate on what the defendant would have said had he or she been questioned.
As soon as Delray Beach Detective John Young made the reference Thursday, Henry's attorney Andrew Stine immediately moved for a mistrial. Circuit Judge Karen Miller granted it, along with a mistrial for Henry's co-defendant Lherisson.
"A defendant's right to be counseled is never to be questioned. It's as simple as that," Stine said Friday. "And this is a huge case, a big money case, not to mention the fact that my client has been in jail for 2 1/2 years."
Henry was arrested in February 2010, shortly after the three boys and one girl reported that two men held them at gunpoint inside an abandoned house and forced them all to perform sex acts on one another while they watched. The attack ended, the victims say, when a third man came along and stopped the two.
Police initially arrested Henry and another man, Spencer Britt, but they later dropped charges against Britt and arrested Lherisson months later. The men are charged with sexual battery, robbery and false imprisonment.
Prosecutors Takisha Richardson and Crichet Mixon had tried to convince the panel that Henry was the man holding the gun in the incident, and that Lherisson was the other participant.
Although Miller declared a mistrial, she set a new trial to begin in the case Monday, meaning the victims could return to court as early as next week to testify in front of a new set of jurors.
Stine on Friday said he's filing paperwork to have Henry's charges thrown out altogether. Miller could hear those arguments Monday.