AUSTIN (KXAN) — A judge granted the defense’s motion Friday for a mistrial for an Austin police officer accused of murder in a 2020 deadly shooting, according to a defense attorney involved in the case.
The trial was supposed to begin Wednesday, but there were several snags with the jury selection process.
Christopher Taylor, 31, is accused of shooting and killing Michael Ramos, 42, during a confrontation with police in a south Austin apartment complex parking lot in April 2020.
Taylor is on administrative leave with the department.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office released the below statement about the mistrial Friday afternoon.
Our hearts go out to the Ramos family, who have to wait even longer for the trial of Christopher Taylor. Due to the release of Monday’s jury panel because of a constitutional violation, the parties were not able to select a jury this week. The judge will reset the case to a future date, and the state will be ready to try the case then.Travis County District Attorney’s Office
Moving forward, the court will conduct jury selection differently, according to Ken Ervin, one of Taylor’s attorneys. The court will order three panels of 100 potential jurors and move to a bigger courtroom for jury selection.
This week, the court chose from jury pools of 80 and 50.
“What you’re looking for are 12 people who are gonna be fair. It could be that due to pre-trial publicity, there are a number of people who have already heard about the case, who have already formed an opinion one way or another,” said Alan Bennett, a former Travis County prosecutor not affiliated with this case.
Some hold-ups with jury selection stemmed from jurors’ availability. Judge Dayna Blazey expects the trial to last 3-4 weeks. The next crop of potential jurors will be informed from the onset that the trial could last about a month.
On Monday, Ervin told KXAN the doors to the courtroom were locked while the state was conducting jury selection, which is not allowed. The judge was unaware this had happened.
Ervin said if the error was discovered after the fact, any trial decisions — including conviction — would be reversed. He said there was no point in not dismissing the jury Monday.
In December 2020, Ramos’ mother, Brenda, sued the City of Austin and Taylor in a wrongful death civil lawsuit, which claims Taylor shot Mike without justification.
“Any competent police officer would have known that shooting a suspect in the head because he was driving away from police and bystanders—toward a dead-end blocked by dumpsters and a building—was a gross civil rights violation,” the lawsuit read.
In 2021, a Travis County grand jury returned an indictment for Taylor.
Former prosecutor Gary Cobb is coming out of retirement to help with the murder trial. Travis County District Attorney José Garza made a special request for Cobb to help with the case, according to a source who asked to remain anonymous because of their proximity to the case.
In July 2019, Taylor was accused of shooting and killing 46-year-old Mauris Nishanga DeSilva in downtown Austin during a check welfare call. In addition to a murder charge, he also faces a charge of deadly conduct for the discharge of a firearm related to the 2019 incident. This case is still going through the court process.