Prosecutor Will Not Pursue Third Trial In 2008 Murder

In 2008, Frederick Mueller was alleged to have murdered his wife, Dr. Leslie Mueller.  The investigation took four years to complete.  Mueller was not charged until 2012.  The prosecution has taken the case to trial twice and was preparing for another re-trial in January.  The first two trials resulted in hung juries, meaning the jurors were not able to reach a unanimous verdict.  The first trial resulted in an 11-1 split in favor of acquittal.  The second trial resulted in an 8-4 split in favor of conviction for second degree murder.

Mueller’s statement to police included an explanation that his wife fell off a cliff when her dog got distracted while they were taking a picture.  Mueller said his wife then drowned in a creek when the current carried her downstream and she got stuck under a log.  Investigators discovered some inconsistencies in Mueller’s story.  Prosecutors believe Mueller got into an argument with his wife when he pushed her and held her under water.

The prosecution has decided to dismiss the case, acknowledging that the prosecution has a responsibility to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and that two separate juries have considered the evidence and have not been convinced of Mueller’s guilt.  While it is not the victim’s family’s decision whether to move forward with the case, the prosecution also indicated that the victim’s family no longer wishes to pursue the charges.

It may seem strange that the prosecution had so many opportunities to try and convict Mueller.  Many people are familiar with the concept of double jeopardy.  Generally, double jeopardy prohibits the prosecution from having multiple opportunities to convict a person for the same criminal act.  However, in this case, the trials ended in a hung jury, which is also called a mistrial.  When a trial ends in a mistrial, double jeopardy does not attach.  As such, the prosecution was not prohibited from re-trying the case.