Judge Declares A Mistrial After Pot Disappears

LYNNWOOD - The disappearance of a half-smoked marijuana cigarette from a Snohomish County courtroom last week resulted in a mistrial for an Everett man, but a deputy prosecutor said he may refile the drug charges.

The marijuana and some rolling papers were evidence in Greg Hinz's trial on charges of possession of marijuana, driving while under the influence of drugs and driving without a valid driver's license.

Deputy Prosecutor Michael Held said he had just presented his case last Thursday in South District Court in Lynnwood and entered the marijuana into evidence when Judge W. Laurence Wilson called a lunch recess.

The marijuana, the rolling papers and other evidence were left on a counter in the unlocked courtroom after the six jurors and court staff members left the room. When Held returned from lunch, the marijuana cigarette and the papers were missing.

Hinz, 36, and three friends, who had been watching the proceedings, were seen in the courtroom during the recess, and a search warrant was obtained, said Cmdr. John Szalda of the Lynnwood police. Officers searched the four, but the evidence was not found.

"The ramifications ultimately ended up being significant," Held said, because Wilson declared a mistrial on all but the charge of driving without a valid operator's license. Hinz was convicted on that charge.

"This was a two-day trial, and I don't know how much that costs, but probably thousands of dollars, which all went down the drain," Held said.

In his 20 years on the bench, Wilson said he had never heard of anything similar occurring. "It was sort of a fluke thing," he said.

Normally, the court clerk or bailiff keeps an eye on the evidence, but Wilson said he didn't know what happened in this case.

Held said he was frustrated the jury wasn't able to decide on the drug charges, both gross misdemeanors, but the judge feared the missing evidence would prejudice jurors against Hinz.

Held said he probably will refile the charges soon.

"Hopefully, a learning process follows," Held said. "Next time, I'm going to ensure the court takes the steps necessary to . . . protect my interest and the state's interests."