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November 16, 2013

Mistrial declared in Peabody drunken driving case

PEABODY — A judge declared a mistrial yesterday in the latest case against a serial drunken driver, after a Peabody police lieutenant told jurors that Peter Hurley was already in the department’s computer system when he was brought in for booking.

Now Hurley, 52, a man with a decades-long record that includes four prior drunken driving convictions, could wind up back on the street. His lawyer said he plans to ask that the case be dismissed or, in the alternative, that Hurley be granted bail.

Hurley’s trial on charges that include fifth-offense drunken driving, threats to stab a police officer and resisting arrest, got underway on Thursday in Salem Superior Court.

But during testimony yesterday morning, one of the officers involved in Hurley’s arrest alluded to knowing who Hurley was from prior encounters with law enforcement. Judge David Lowy told jurors to disregard that information.

Then, Peabody police Lt. Arthur Yeo took the stand. When prosecutor Ashlee Logan asked Yeo about Hurley’s booking after his Nov. 4, 2011, arrest, Yeo answered by telling the jury that Hurley’s personal information was already in the computer.

That prompted defense lawyer Kirk Bransfield to ask for a mistrial, citing the prejudicial effect that information would have on the jury, which would be able to infer that Hurley had been arrested in the past.

Bransfield had already won a standard motion to preclude any reference to Hurley’s prior record during the trial, something that courts have held to be potentially prejudicial to jurors.

Lowy agreed and granted the defense motion.

Prosecutors plan to seek a new trial in the case, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office. A status hearing is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 22.

Hurley had been on probation for just three months when he was arrested after a patrolman, Richard Rose, saw him driving out of a parking lot on Walnut Street in downtown Peabody without headlights and over a curb, Rose testified on Thursday.

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