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Mistrial Called On Couple Accused Of Child Abuse And Trafficking
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 9, 2006

BROWNSVILLE, TENNESSEE--A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday afternoon in the case of a couple that have been accused on a total of 26 charges of child abuse and child trafficking.

Debra Schmitz had been charged with 20 counts, while Tom Schmitz had been charged with six counts involving their adopted and biological children, many of whom have physical or mental disabilities.

The Department of Children's Services removed the 18 children -- ranging from 1 to 17 years of age -- from the Schmitz's home in June 2004 amid allegations of abuse and neglect, according to the Jackson Sun.

During the seven-day trial that ended last Friday, the jury heard testimony from some of the children, describing how they were beaten, locked in a metal cage for punishment, locked in a storm cellar, threatened with being killed, and forced to dig holes in the yard that they were told were their own graves.

Jurors also heard that the couple drew government subsidies of more than $7,000 a month, as prosecutors accused them of adopting and otherwise taking in the children for financial gain.

On Tuesday afternoon, the jury told Haywood County Circuit Court Judge Clayburn Peeples that they had arrived at their verdicts: Mrs. Schmitz was found guilty of 15 of the 20 charges against her, and Mr. Schmidt was found guilty of two of the six charges against him.

But when the judge asked each juror -- one by one -- whether they agreed with the verdicts, one male juror admitted that he did not.

Since the jurors were not unanimous, Clayburn then declared the mistrial and set July 18 for a new trial. The couple will only face trial on the charges to which the jury had originally found them guilty -- all class A misdemeanors punishable by less than a year in prison.

Peeples dismissed the other charges to which all of the jurors found the Schmitzes not guilty.

"Mistrial declared after jury stalls in Schmitz case" (Jackson Sun)


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