Judge declares mistrial in Hagan murder case

Standard photo/Wyatt Squires

Family members of Halee Rathgeber embrace as they leave the courtroom Friday after the trial for Isaiah Hagan was declared a mistrial.

The judge in the Isaiah Hagan murder case declared a mistrial on Friday.

On fourth day of the trial presentation of evidence was scheduled to begin, it was brought to the attention of Warrick County Circuit Court Judge Greg Granger that a juror had witnessed Hagan in a holding cell while entering the Warrick County Judicial Center.

According to Indiana rules pertaining to trials, the jury must not view a defendant in custody or attire pertaining to custody in an attempt to keep the jury impartial throughout the proceedings.

Hagan's attorney Mark Phillips said no one in with the court system was to blame for the incident, but said the circumstance couldn't be undone.

"I understand people make mistakes, but this is wrong," he told the court.

Warrick County Prosecutor Mike Perry agreed with Phillips. He said the trial couldn't continue after the juror saw Hagan.

"As an officer of the court, I can't oppose this motion," he told the judge. "The damage has been done. ...I don't think there's any way to proceed with the 14 [jurors] we have."

As a result, Granger granted a motion to declare a mistrial.

"The impact upon all parties is significant," Granger said, noting that his definition of parties includes all family members and individuals connected to the case. "It's a shame that we've come to this point."

While Granger agreed that the circumstances led to halting the trial process, he did not, however, agree that Hagan should be released.

Hagan, 23, of Evansville, was arrested last year in connection with the murder of 20-year-old Halee Rathgeber after her body was found at the Alcoa Soccer Complex east of Newburgh. Hagan was arrested on May 1, 2017 after a police investigation. He was charged with murder and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury as well as obstruction of justice.

Hagan could face life in prison if convicted.

Phillips told the court that, pursuant to rules regarding a timely trial, Hagan should be released to home detention or another secure form of release. However, Granger denied the motion.

The original proceedings began on Tuesday, May 1. After two days of jury selection, the parties began presenting evidence on Thursday, May 3.

Now, the parties will return for a hearing to schedule a new court date on Tuesday, May 15, at 10 a.m. A hearing is also scheduled for Thursday, May 31, at 10 a.m. for a progress hearing to discuss motions relating to Hagan's release and other ongoing issues pertaining to the case.

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