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Trial for man accused of stabbing Lincoln officer abruptly ends in mistrial after COVID exposure
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Trial for man accused of stabbing Lincoln officer abruptly ends in mistrial after COVID exposure

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After a full day spent picking a jury Monday, followed by a half-day of opening statements and testimony Tuesday, a jury trial for a 45-year-old man accused of stabbing a Lincoln police officer in 2018 abruptly ended in a mistrial.

"Well, I think you have some premonition that things aren't going well," District Judge Teresa Luther told the jury, after members filed back into the courtroom a half an hour later than planned Tuesday after lunch. "We have had a COVID exposure."

She said one of the attorneys had been exposed to someone who since has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a need to quarantine and the motion for a mistrial in Christopher Brennauer's case. 

Christopher Brennauer

Brennauer

During an incident early Dec. 29, 2018, the 45-year-old Lincoln man stabbed Officer Kyle Russell with a knife, leading the officer to fire three shots, hitting Brennauer twice and accidentally wounding Officer Josh Atkinson, who also was trying to get control of Brennauer.

Brennauer's public defenders said they would be raising an insanity defense. It's their expert's opinion he didn't understand the nature and consequences of his actions at the time because of his mental state.

On Tuesday, Luther told the jurors that, after consulting with the Health Department, they wouldn't need to quarantine at this point. 

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The attorneys were getting tested Tuesday and letting the judge know the results so jurors could learn if there may have been a direct exposure, which would prompt the need to quarantine. 

Several members of the jury told the judge they had at least one COVID vaccine shot prior to being picked to hear the case.

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"You have been a very patient group, and I can't thank you enough for coming in," Luther said. 

She said a new jury would be called in May to hear Brennauer's case. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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