Something unexpected happened in a Philadelphia courtroom on Wednesday: A man's eye popped out of his head while he was testifying in an aggravated assault trial.
Jurors gasped when John "Big Red" Huttick caught his glass eye in his hand. Then as he sat weeping with the prosthesis in his palm, everyone in the courtroom reeled and wondered what to do, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer
Not defense attorney Eileen Hurley. She immediately demanded a mistrial, which the judge granted.
"It was shocking and unexpected. He caught it in his hand and sort of held it there," Hurley told the Inquirer. "Something as disruptive as that is a bell that could not be unrung. It could cause the jury to have undue sympathy for [Huttick] and undue prejudice to the defendant."
Huttick, 48, was testifying against defendant Matthew Brunelli, 23, charged with aggravated assault during a 2011 altercation and facing 10 to 20 years in prison.
Huttick claimed Brunelli punched him so hard in the face during a late-night brawl at a northwest Philly bar that he had to have his left eye surgically removed.
However, Hurley said two witnesses testified that Brunelli only hit Huttick once, in self defense, after Huttick put him into a bear hug and kneed him the groin.
The assistant district attorney on the case, Mark Gilson, contended Huttick was trying to break up a fight between Brunelli and two other men, including an off-duty police officer.
The prosecutor said Brunelli likely hit Huttick in the face with a key or another sharp object.
"His left eye was punctured, his retina detached and there was a laceration above his eyebrow," Gilson said. He added that a week-long stay in Philadelphia's Wills Eye Hospital didn't alter the need for Huttick's eye removal.
The new trial date is March 4.
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