EVERETT — A mistrial was declared Wednesday in the case of a man accused of forcing a woman to overdose on fentanyl and Xanax.
At question is whether the defendant’s right to remain silent had been violated.
Zachary Madding, 29, is charged with first-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Prosecutors say he pinned down the woman in a Mukilteo hotel in May 2018. He then allegedly shoved crushed-up Xanax pills into her mouth and sprayed fentanyl fluid up her nose.
The woman ran outside and collapsed in the parking lot, where Mukilteo police revived her with naloxone, an opioid antidote.
During opening arguments on Tuesday, public defender Natalie Tarantino questioned the prosecutors’ depiction of what had taken place, arguing that the woman had relapsed into drug use and had “every motive” to lie.
“Not kind of, not a little bit — but beyond a reasonable doubt, is it true she was forced to do drugs?” she said in an opening statement. “That’s what this case is about.”
Debate came to a halt Wednesday morning when a Mukilteo police officer took the witness stand.
The officer was recalling the suspect’s arrest, said deputy prosecutor Teresa Cox. The officer said the man had declined to speak upon his arrest, and refused again when asked if he wanted to talk to a detective at the police department.
Attorneys feared that the officer’s comment could color the jury’s perception, causing them to believe the defendant was hiding something.
The defense called for a mistrial, and Judge Bruce Weiss granted it, based on what jurors talked about during the selection process.
Cox called the officer’s remarks accidental, but said she couldn’t disagree with the judge’s decision.
“There were a lot of questions of potential jurors as far as what their thoughts might be if the defendant didn’t testify,” she said.
“It was a big issue,” she said.
In an email, Tarantino said that it was “not a new thing” that police aren’t allowed to comment on a defendant’s refusal to speak.
“It was a very unfortunate and surprising error on the officer’s part,” Tarantino wrote.
As a result, the trial will have to begin anew. A status conference is scheduled for Thursday to discuss a new date.