Request for mistrial in McNeill case denied

May 21, 2013 10:34:34 AM PDT
There was drama in the courtroom Tuesday after Mario McNeill's defense accused a prosecutor of violating a court order, and requested a mistrial.

McNeill, 33, is charged with murder in the alleged 2009 rape and killing of 5-year-old Shaniya Davis. Prosecutors say McNeill took the child from her home in the early morning hours of November 10, 2009 to rape her at a motel in Sanford before killing her and dumping her body in an area known to be a place deer hunters dump carcasses just off N.C. Highway 87 near the Lee-Harnett County line. Searchers finally located the child's remains after getting a tip on where to look from McNeill's former attorneys.

But it was that tip that caused the drama in the courtroom Tuesday as prosecutors made their closing arguments. McNeill's defense team has argued what McNeill told his lawyers is protected by attorney-client privilege. But Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons ruled before the trial began that jurors can hear that the lawyers gave police the information - but not how the lawyers got it.

That was the problem Tuesday when prosecutor Billy West made the comment in his closing argument that "The body was found where his lawyers said he put the body."

The defense asked for a mistrial, but Judge Ammons denied the request, saying: "I didn't catch it. I don't know how many of [the jurors] caught it."

McNeill has not denied taking Shaniya from her home or taking her to the Sanford hotel, but he says he gave her to someone else and did not kill her.

McNeill is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree rape of a child, first-degree kidnapping, human trafficking with a child victim, sexual servitude with a child victim, sexual offense of a child and indecent liberties with a child charges. He could get the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors have also charged Shaniya's mother Antoinette Davis with selling her daughter to McNeill to pay a drug debt. Davis hasn't been tried yet.

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