GALVESTON — The trial of a man accused of keeping his son locked in an 8-foot-by-6-foot particleboard box at a Galveston home ended in a mistrial Thursday.

District Judge Lonnie Cox granted the defense’s motion for a mistrial after Judge Michelle Slaughter was recused from the case for posting about the trial on a public Facebook page.

Slaughter was recused from the case of David Wieseckel, 44, on the third day of the trial, when jurors had heard a little more than a day’s worth of testimony. 

Cox, who was appointed to preside over the case, said starting the trial over would harm neither the prosecution nor defense in the case.

Prosecutor Adam Poole said a new trial date would be months away.

Attorney Nicholas Poehl, who is representing Wieseckel, said Cox made the right decision in granting the motion for a mistrial.

Poehl called for a mistrial after seeing posts on Slaughter’s Facebook page referring to the case, including a post that linked to a news story on the trial. Slaughter also described the box being constructed in her courtroom before the structure was admitted into evidence or shown to the jury.

Slaughter would have assessed punishment for Wieseckel if he had been found guilty by the jury. The judge was essentially in the role of a juror, according to the motion for mistrial.

In court instructions, Slaughter had urged jurors to “not post anything on Facebook or other social media about this case until I release you from this instruction” and to “not do any research on your own into this case.”

According to the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, “a judge shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding which may come before the judge’s court in a manner which suggests to a reasonable person the judge’s probable decision on any particular case.”

Cox delivered the “good news and bad news” to inform jurors they were discharged from the trial.

Wieseckel was arrested with his wife, Linda Schwan, 50, on charges of injury to a child and unlawful restraint of a child.

Schwan’s case is in Slaughter’s court. Attorney Julia Hatcher, who is representing Schwan, said she intended to ask that Slaughter recuse herself from the case.

Slaughter issued a statement Wednesday about her posts on social media.

“In an effort to provide governmental transparency, I made statements on my Facebook page that were readily available to any member of the public who was present in the courtroom,” she said.

Slaughter continued to write on her Facebook page Thursday.

“Something many people don’t understand is that in a jury trial, judges are not in the same role as jurors,” she wrote. “Judges see and hear everything and decide what gets to go to the jury for their decision.”

In another post, Slaughter asked her followers to “continue to demand governmental transparency at all levels.”

 

Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or alex.macon@galvnews.com.

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(31) comments

Kevin Lang

It sounds like the judge doesn't believe there was any wrong done here. What does the law say about that? Did she violate the judicial process, or not? She recused herself, so, does that mean that she just didn't want to hold the trial, or does it mean that she does believe that what she did was wrong?

I haven't read her posts, so I have no idea whether there is any indication of her opinion in the case, so I don't know if she truly did anything wrong. It does seem contrary to what I understood juror instructions are, and I would think that juror instructions should also pertain to the judge, too--after all, jurors and judges are supposed to represent impartiality during the course of the trial.

Raymond Lewis

I wondered about this person's abilities to be a 'quality' judge. One with good judgement , that is.

Don Ciaccio

I breaks my heart to think we replaced a top notch judge like Wayne Mallia with a judge with no bench experience. Very sad indeed. I hope the citizens of Galveston County remember this when she is up for re-election.

Gary Scoggin

Boy, that landslide of unqualified judges is really paying off, huh?

George Croix

About the same payoff as the national landslides....

Terry Moore

IMO...she is entrusted to make a fair decision on facts presented. She should not be posting any cases on Social Media. I in no way am defending the person in this case nor accusing as I am not in the courtroom. If I was on trial I would not want her on my case if she is using Social Media as an outlet regarding it.

Jackson Hancock

I read her posts and there was nothing there to indicate any influence one way or another. It was a docket call on FB for the most part.
I like knowing whats going on in our courtroom and she is at least letting us know what is public information.

The issue comes with the folks who can comment on those posts. If she turned off commenting then it becomes nothing more than a public service announcement without bias.

Don Ciaccio

A lesson for the student - When you are old enough to serve on a jury, you.ll learn that one of the first instructions to every jury is to not discuss the trial with anyone. Period... You can be thrown off the jury or even found in contempt of court for discussing a trial with anyone. Judge slaughter should resign for making such an obvious mistake. That young boy will have to wait even longer for his father to be brought to justice for his crime for her irresponsible actions.

andyutley38

Believe me when I say this. This young boy has waited years for justice to be served. This trial had been set four different times. Finally, April 28th 2014 had come and trial was a go. Through the months that led up to this date, my son struggled greatly with fear and an enormous amount of anxiety, that he would have to testify in the court room, in front of the man who abused him. During these months, through therapy, my continued love, support, and a huge amount of reassurance he was prepared to take the stand. He said "Mom, I just want this to be over". We traveled to Galveston on Monday with the thoughts of this coming to an end. We were to testify on Wednesday. As we are in the hotel room getting ourselves ready, for the moment that would change our lives forever the court proceedings were stopped. That afternoon I was told what had taken place and the possibility of a mistrial. I was beside myself with grief and a broken heart for my son. I could not understand how something like this could have happened. Of all the people that could have done this, why did it have to be the JUDGE. How could I tell my son that we would have to go back home with no resolution to what has caused him great pain, and that we would have to come back at another time for a new trial. I couldn't tell him it was the Judge that caused this to happen, when these are the people who are to suppose to protect our children. The state of Texas and their so called system, failed my son repeatedly through the years he spent there and the one person who could have made it rite, FAILED miserably. For now, my son only knows that there has to be a new trial because a new Judge has to take over and that they have to pick different people for the Jury. I explained that sometimes these things happen and they are out of our control. He said "Ok Mom". He is an extraordinary child. If you were to meet this child, you would never know, he was the "Boy in the Box". He is the most beautiful, loving and compassionate child you could ever meet. He has the greatest since of humor and a heart as big as this world. The greatest joy I get, is to hear him laugh and be the boy he has always been. And the million times he says "I love you Mom" and the million hugs that come along with that.

Doyle Beard

This fiasco cost taxpayers a dime or two.

George Croix

Did the folks commenting on the bad judgement of a judge posting trial info on her Facebook page cause the mistrial?
Pick one:
1) No
2) No
3) No
4) All of the above
THAT is the reality, not some virtual life on facebook where people you've never even met can 'like' you.
Here, in the real world, the next election will be a lot more instructive as to popularity...

PD Hyatt

Doesn't matter what party she is with she should NEVER be re-elected in this county for anything ever again....

Steve Fouga

I don't think she did anything wrong. Trials are often on TV. How is posting on Facebook more visible or more prejudicial than showing a trial on TV?

I admit it seems a little odd to those of us who grew up prior to the availability of social media, but my opinion is we need to get used to it.

I do wonder why she recused herself, though, if she believed what she did was right.

George Croix

I'm pretty sure that all parties in a trial being televised are aware of it.

Maybe there was nothing wrong about the posting, according to the law.
The judge seems to think she did something that rated her declaring a mistrial...
I recall being told as a child that if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
That's served me well, but maybe the 'new normal' works better for others.

I admit to being a social media shunner. I just cannot give a flip about whether somebody I don't know and will never ever meet 'likes' me or not, and I'm a lot more selective about who I call friend than to pick them out of cyberspace...

Mike Leahy

My dear...Student: The "public service" with which a sitting Judge is charged by oath does NOT involve keeping you or anyone else outside that courtroom informed of what is going on. There are two powerful methods for you to learn what is going on: 1) read the newspaper (it actually is THEIR job) or go sit on one of the very public seats in the courtroom. These methods of finding out what is going on has served everyone very well for centuries.

It is not the job of the Judge, Counsel (on either side) Jurors, Bailiffs, or anyone else serving in an official capacity within that courtroom to keep the "can you hear me now" generation informed of the events therein. The possibility of any of those courtroom officials committing a small or a major violation of the judicial process by playing at amateur Walter Winchell is more than obvious. Indeed, it has just been demonstrated for us all with crystal clarity as the trial of a man accused of a heinous crime has just been screwed up to high heaven. I hope your desire to "know what's going on" has been satisfied. Because justice for that little boy has surely not. Remember him?

Christine Mangle

Thank you for remembering the little boy.

Stevie Maradeo

Let's all remember this when elections come around.

Kevin Lang

Regardless of how people perceive this action and its results, I'm afraid that only one thing will matter to most of the voters, and it has nothing to do with on-the-job performance, the candidate's name, or the candidate's gender. It's whether the candidate's name is suffixed with a "-D" or a "-R".

Jackson Hancock

The generation gap can be seen in the comments of this article. While members of my generation are used to social media being a news outlet, most of the older generation does not.
GDN may be the preferred way for some while others use social media.

I must admit that I can't name one of my friends who actually watch the news, read the paper or sit at a local coffee shop. Its the sign of the times.

We get our news from various online networks, so an argument could be made that the posting was a news outlet for those of us who wish to shun a biased and politicized mainstream media.

Robert Young

MIC..You hit the nail on the head..What evidence us she missing while posting?

Miss Priss

I agree with what you're saying island student regarding social media, however, the judge needs to exercise discretion on what gets posted. After telling the jurist to do one thing while she does another ruins her credibility. This applies to any multimedia. Watching what you get quoted on transcends any generation.

George Croix

A biased and politicized mainstream media...
I agree.
However, you can at least LOOK at the folks making the claims, or see their real names, and there are organizations that keep some kind of watch on the veracity of statements made and reports...reported.
The alternative is I can look at a little screen with news posted by Bigreenzombie or InternetInfidels or some such (if it's the MM internet version, then what's the difference...), posted by, presumably, somebody with actual knowledge of the news, they say. I can get the opinions of about 10 billion people on any subject, all but 9 of whom I've never met, never will meet, never seen, don't know even what their name is or their background, other than what they choose to tell me.
Different strokes...

Miss Priss

One must be striking a cord to turn your head Gecroix or you would not be so concerned who is posting anonymously. Just sayin'[beam]

George Croix

My concern is for weasily characters who make comments with their keyboard that their mouths would never make in person.
It's no different from the jerks in the stands at a ballgame that shout out comments at the players knowing they can get away with it.
It's not just the anonymous part. There may be valid reasons to NOT reveal an ID.
It's the 'internet hero' syndrome.
I figure if a bad comment about someone is made, that person deserves the courtesy of knowing who made it, so they can call them on it if not true.
But, I wasn't born a weasel, and have, so far, not developed into a coward...

Robert Young

Gecroix..you kidding right? are you posting in your name..?

George Croix

No, I'm not kidding.
Yes, I am posting with my real name.
Why not. Talk it, walk it, is how I was raised.
All you need is a Texas city phone book, and the ability to read, both of which are easy enough to get.
Only one in there.
Give me a call.
I've had the same number for over 40 years, and lived in the same place for 23...

George Croix

What?
No call?

[beam][beam]

Mike Leahy

Student: Generation Gap??? Hey kid, it was MY generation who coined that term! You have no standing to use it; if you want to identify yourself as a separate "generation", then coin your own terms. Oh and: Power to the People, Right On! I hope you can hear me laughing.

The point is NOT by what device you acquire information, the point is what source you get it from. A sitting Judge in mid-trial of a heinous crime, is not the right source. If you doubt that, take a look at the consequences in the present case.

Gecroix: Agree wholeheartedly with you about posting with your name, so one can be accountable for one's hard commentary in these forums about others.

Not long ago, I chose to speak quite negatively about an attorney who has made her living representing various elements of the City (in other words, one of our employees). She soon looked me up on LinkedIn and that site, as per their policy, let me know she had done so.

All out in the open, as it should be. Talk it, walk it. You are quite right. I guess no one has told that to the most recent "younger generation".

George Croix

Hey, they're the 'younger generation'.
We were all there once. Some have never left...
Fortunately, most of us started getting a lot smarter soon as the area behind our ears dried out. I know that I know a lot less at 63 than I thought I did at 18.
It's going to be a rude awakening for some of these folks some day when they find out that they can hide from real life for a while in their virtual world, but eventually real life will find you.
In the meantime, you can't help but laugh at some of the shenanigans people pull when they don't think anybody knows who's doing it...

Robert Young

The reason I have not called you Ge roix is

" I admit to being a social media shunner. I just could not give a flip about someone I will never know or meet likes me or not"

George Croix

It's a landline number.
Far as I can recall, that form of communication predates, by a considerable margin of years, 'social media'.
My old Panasonic, for sure, doesn't have a 'like' button anywhere on it, and I don't have to 'friend' anybody for them to see AT&T's listing of me ... [wink]
I'm guessing the no call is more likely because the caller ID won't show 'justaman' on it...
Have a nice what's-left-of-the-day...[beam]

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