MANCHESTER, NH – A judge declared a mistrial in the case of Sarah Lynch, accused of staging a crime scene and reporting a fake burglary, after a jury deadlocked Friday 7 to 5 in favor of acquitting her.
Judge N. William Delker, presiding in Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District, said at one point during deliberations the jury of seven women and five men voted 8 to 4 in favor of acquitting Lynch, 42.
The case will be scheduled for retrial if the defense and prosecutors don’t reach a settlement. Defense attorney Anthony Sculimbrene said prior to the case being tried, they had reached an agreement with prosecutors but then the prosecution reneged on it.
Prosecutors contended Lynch faked the burglary on Jan. 13, 2019, took a baseball bat to break a window on the front door of her 102 North Adams St. home and then toppled furniture and scattered children’s toys about the living room to make it look like a struggle took place.
Police said video recordings obtained from neighbors recorded no one entering Lynch’s home and, with about six inches of snow covering the ground, the only footprints near the home were traced to someone unconnected to the alleged incident.
They also pointed to a baseball bat, located in Lynch’s office next to a small shard of glass, as having marks on it that matched markings on the door’s casing.
However, when lead investigator Scott Ardita, who has since retired from the police department and now is an insurance fraud investigator, was testifying and examined the bat, he said the markings were no longer there. The bat, according to the defense, was in the possession of police since the day it was taken into evidence.
Sculimbrene said Ardita never physically examined the bat until the trial and instead had made an assessment of the marks by looking at photographs of the bat.
The bat, he said, was 27 years old and used up and down the East Coast.
The defense also pointed out that investigators did not dust for fingerprints; took only three things into evidence – a bat, candle and computer cord, and did not take a swab of the blood on Lynch’s cheek to test for DNA even though she had no cut on her face and had suggested it could be the intruder’s.
While investigators said there was no other tool found that could have broken a window, the defense pointed out that a photograph taken by police recorded a shovel and rake on the porch. He also told them that, according to officers’ testimony, 20 officers walked through the home that day, including through the broken glass.
“There was a parade of people walking through” the crime scene, he said.
He said a video of the police interview, which was played for the jury, is “an example of what happens when you confront an honest person with lies.”
Police exploited a mental disability resulting in Lynch questioning herself. She told the investigators she was feeling like she was having a “mental fucking breakdown.”
Ardita, he said, battered Lynch because he wanted her to confess and she said, “I’m not lying. She’s not lying. The break-in actually happened.”
The jury was deadlocked Friday morning, after deliberating for about half a day and listening to testimony over 2 ½ days.
Delker had the jury of seven women and five men come back into the courtroom after they said they could not reach a unanimous verdict.
Delker gave them the “dynamite charge,” a sort of pep talk to encourage them to return to deliberations in an attempt to reach a verdict. He told them if they didn’t reach a unanimous jury it would result in what is called a “hung jury” and would likely result in the process starting over and another trial.
He said another jury was not going to be any smarter than they were and would have the same skills they had. The evidence, he said, would not likely be different.
Delker said he did not want them to cede their “honest conviction” just to reach a verdict.
Twice on Friday they came back with requests: once for a tape measure, which the judge granted, and the other for a digital format of the photograph of Lynch’s injuries, which the judge denied.
After deliberating for another 2 ½ hours, the court was informed about 2:30 p.m. that the jury was still deadlocked and Delker ultimately declared a mistrial.