Mistrial declared in John Mason assault trial in San Luis Obispo

Trial of man involved in a 2011 bar fight in SLO ends after three days of deliberations; court reconvenes next month to find out what’s next.

jlamb@thetribunenews.comSeptember 27, 2012 

John Ryan Mason, right, closes his eyes upon hearing the judge declare a mistrial Thursday, Sept. 27, as the jury deadlocked in Mason’s assault and battery case. At left is Mason’s attorney, Chris Casciola.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

The assault and battery trial of a San Luis Obispo firefighter who put another man in the hospital in a bar fight ended in a mistrial Thursday. Now the case could be retried or dismissed.

After deliberating for three afternoons, the jury in the trial against John Ryan Mason could not come to a unanimous decision, as required in a criminal case. Eight jurors determined that Mason was not guilty, and four voted to convict.

Jurors would not comment after the mistrial was announced.

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy said the court will reconvene Oct. 18 to see whether a deal can be made or whether the charges will be dropped. Mason’s lawyer, Chris Casciola, was visibly happy when the jury announced its deadlock, and he said so after he left the court. “I think it’s great.”

Deputy District Attorney Kristy Imel had no comment, and the District Attorney’s Office would not say whether it plans to proceed again with prosecution.

“While we are pleased with the jury’s hard work, we are disappointed in their inability to reach a verdict,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran said. “We felt that the defendant acted with unreasonable force due to the severity of the injuries of the victim.”

Between now and Oct. 18, the District Attorney’s Office will re-evaluate the case and speak with jurors, Gran said, to decide whether to retry the case or dismiss it.

Mason, 35, whose trial began Sept. 5, faced charges of felony assault with great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury. The victim, Jory Brigham, 33, suffered a broken nose, broken jaw and broken cheekbones during a June 2011 altercation at Pappy McGregor’s Bar & Grill in San Luis Obispo. The prosecution argued that Mason attacked Brigham, while the defense argued that Mason was only defending himself.

Moving forward

Casciola doesn’t think the district attorney will continue with the prosecution. If so, it would be a waste of public funds and a losing battle, he said.

“Their case will get worse; our case will get better,” he said.

Gran replied, “We strive to do justice in a case. Mr. Casciola’s opinions right now don’t matter in our evaluation of the case.”

Casciola argued that if the District Attorney’s Office moves forward with the case, it will be because of the publicity surrounding the case, specifically because of Mason’s occupation.

“Had my client not been a firefighter, this case would not have gone to trial,” he said.

“His occupation did not matter, did not have any impact on our evaluation of whether or not to file the case,” Gran said.

Weakness of the cases

The weakest part of the prosecution’s case, said Casciola, was their main witness, Brigham, because his story changed too many times for jurors to believe it.

“Mr. Brigham is not a trustworthy witness,” Casciola said.

But Casciola admitted the defense had a hurdle in the severity of Brigham’s injuries. That made convincing the jury that Mason was defending himself hard to do.

The severity of Brigham’s injuries and the lack of injuries to Mason were the strongest part of the prosecution’s case, said Gran, who said he didn’t know enough about the prosecution’s case to comment on its weaknesses.

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