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Mistrial declared in drunk-driving trial

A jury could not reach a verdict in the case of a former professional football player charged with felony drunk driving, forcing a Fairfax County judge to declare a mistrial.

The man, 68, has already been convicted of drunk driving two times. If prosecutors decide to put him back on trial in this case, and he is convicted, he would face up to five years in jail because of a third drunk driving conviction within five years.

In this case, the man was arrested in December 2010 after a police officer allegedly spotted him driving erratically along a Chantilly, Virginia, road. When the officer smelled alcohol, the man allegedly admitted to consuming two alcoholic beverages. At the Fairfax County jail, a breath test registered a blood alcohol content of 0.08, equal to Virginia's legal limit.

The lone holdout in the jury room said she would not vote to convict the man because she questioned the accuracy of the machine that administered the breath test. An expert for the defense had testified during the trial that the machine might not have been working properly and could have given inaccurate results.

In a twist, the defense also argued that dementia could have caused the driver to cross the center line multiple times. Defense attorneys said the man's years playing football for the Washington Redskins could have affected his brain. Several former players are suing the National Football League, contending repeated concussions incurred on the field have left them neurologically impaired.

The judge told the jury not to consider the man's possible dementia when deliberating on the drunk driving charge, only when discussing the way he was driving that night.

The mistrial was the right outcome for a jury who could not come to agreement. The man has a right to expect a proper blood alcohol content test from police, not one that could undeservedly put him behind bars for five years.

Source: The Washington Post, "Jury deadlocks in DUI trial of former Redskin," Justin Jouvenal, Jan. 5, 2012

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