COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A former Columbus police officer is preparing to face a jury for the second time on charges of murder and manslaughter.
Andrew Mitchell is accused in the shooting death of Donna Castleberry, 23, during a 2018 undercover prostitution sting. Mitchell’s first trial ended with a hung jury in April of 2022.
Toward the end of their second day of deliberation, jurors informed Franklin County Judge David Young that seven of them found Mitchell’s use of force to be reasonable, two of them did not, and three were undecided. As a result, Young declared a mistrial on April 15.
Nearly a year later to the day, the same attorneys were back in Young’s courtroom to select a new jury to attempt what the previous jury could not accomplish: a verdict.
When the shooting took place, Mitchell was working undercover for CPD’s now-defunct VICE unit. He said was arresting Castleberry in a car when she slashed him with a knife and choked him before he shot her. Both the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office and Mark Collins, the lead defense attorney, declined to comment on the case Monday.
Robert Barnhart, a former prosecutor and defense attorney who now teaches law at Capital University, has followed the Mitchell case closely. Rarely, he said, does a case make it to a second trial.
“I’ve had a few cases with hung juries. And then we get right up to that next trial. And something always tips– you know, one side tips or the other tips,” Barnhart said. “But in these kinds of cases, that’s really impossible.”
Adding to the complexity of a second trial, key evidence in the case has already been presented and reported on publicly. In Mitchell’s case, that included expert testimony about his knife wound and an audio recording of the deadly encounter.
“It’s really threading a needle, right? Because you want to find people who aren’t predisposed to think a certain way, because they know the outcome of the first trial,” Barnhart said. “But then you’re suspicious of people who have no idea what you’re talking about, because you also want people who are engaged in the community.”
During Monday’s proceedings, attorneys asked potential jurors if they’d watched or read coverage of Mitchell’s first trial, whether they had an opinion on it, and whether they could set that aside to focus on the evidence in this trial.