SANTA BARBARA — Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill declared a mistrial Wednesday in the trial of defendant, 51, who stands accused of the shotgun murder of his brother Dan Lyons and his partner Barbara Scharton as they slept in their beds on the night of May 4, 2009.
Prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss accepted the ruling with equanimity.
“The judge made his call,” he told the media. “That’s how the system works, so I don’t second-guess it.”
Auchinloss had called the defendant’s surviving brother Dr. Tom Lyons to the witness stand to testify as to a telephone call between the defendant and their sister Colleen Zitelli, in which he was purported to have indicated knowledge of Dan Lyons’ death prior to the discovery of the murder victims by Santa Barbara police. Tom Lyons’ answers were ruled unresponsive and “out of bounds as prejudicial hearsay” by Judge Hill. Hill further indicated that Tom Lyons’ outspoken opinions from the witness stand could inappropriately influence the jury.
Corey Lyons’ defense counsel, attorney Robert Sanger, had vociferously argued for the mistrial and for having Tom Lyons’ testimony stricken from the trial record.
“All we’re asking for here is a fair trial,” Sanger said.
A new trial date has yet to be determined.
“We expect it to be fairly soon,” said Sanger’s staff attorney Stephen Dunkle.