Pella Chronicle

March 15, 2013

Jury deadlocked, mistrial in Techel trial

CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — A mistrial has been declared in the Seth Techel trial.

After four days of deliberation, the 12-person jury returned to the courtroom shortly after 11 a.m. Friday to "make a record."

"Has this jury reached a unanimous verdict?" asked Judge Daniel Wilson.

"No, sir," said the head juror.

"Do you think continued deliberations would lead to a unanimous verdict of the jury?" Wilson asked.

"No, sir," the head juror said.

Seth Techel, 22, was charged with first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy in the death of his wife, Lisa, and unborn child last May at their rural Agency home. Prosecutors say they plan to retry the case.

The Iowa Judicial Branch's website lays out the requirement for verdicts in criminal trials:

"If the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, the court will declare a mistrial and the case may be tried again to another jury at a later date."

One of Techel's attorneys, Robert Box, made a motion for mistrial, "for reasons that it's apparent that the jury is deadlocked." Following no objections from prosecutor Andy Prosser, Wilson granted the mistrial.

As the judge spoke to the jury about their decision, some of the jurors were in tears.

Following court dismissal, Prosser told the Courier that he plans to seek a retrial within 90 days. For now, Techel will return to Monroe County Jail to be held on the two charges against him.

"We're considering that," Prosser said of a change of venue, "but you'll know if and when we file a motion."

"Of course, we're disappointed in what happened but I think the whole family is confident moving forward that justice will be served," said Todd Caldwell, Lisa's father. "I feel like we've got a huge family afterwards even more so than when we began: the investigators, the prosecutors and the victim advocates and our family have shed tears over this case, every one of them."

Caldwell said waiting for the jury to return from deliberations is "horrible."

"Not only are you waiting, but you're trying to entertain your family, keep their minds off of what's going on and at the end of the day, you've got to go to bed and know that you've got to wake up and do it again," Caldwell said.

The Caldwell family has told stories of Lisa throughout the trial to try to lift their spirits.

"That always makes everything better," he said. "But it's hard to know that it's out of your control and you've got to leave it to other people."

Tracy Caldwell, Lisa's mother, said for Lisa's parents it's horrible, but worse is watching Lisa's siblings go through the pain.

"That sense of 'you can't fix it,'" she said. "As a parent you want to fix their pain. For our other kids it's hard for us, too, to watch them. We deal with our pain, because we're the parent, but we're supposed to fix the boo boos ... so that's hard for us."

Todd said Lisa was a fun-loving, happy person.

"It wouldn't be like Lisa to not want a little bit of attention," he said with a slight grin. "The fact that it's carrying on probably has something to do with her because she's not ready to lose the focus."

Todd said Lisa's death has affected not only his family, but the Techels and the Wapello County Sheriff's Office.

"I think we've kind of ended that relationship, so I don't think of [Seth] as a son now but I did at one time think of him as a son," Todd said. "So it's like we lost two children."

Todd carries a coin a friend made for him in Lisa's honor, with her badge number, in his pocket every day in court, and said he will continue to do so during the retrial.

"Whenever I'm nervous or mad or something, I just reach in my pocket and know it's there," he said.

During the trial, Tracy said she's found her family had more friends than she ever realized.

"Lisa had many people that loved her," she said. "They've stepped up and taken us in their arms, too. I don't think we could have went through this without them."

The Techel family immediately left the courtroom following the close of the trial. Seth Techel left the courtroom without saying a word, accompanied by two sheriff deputies. He gave one of his attorneys, Robert Box, a pat on the back as he left.