The murder trial of 36-year-old Morgan M. Mengel, a West Goshen mother of three accused of conspiring with her lover to kill her husband on June 17, 2010, is expected to continue this morning after a brief delay. Chester County Judge Thomas G. Gavin asked the panel to report a half-hour later, telling jurors he had other business to address.
The attorneys had no comment yesterday on the spirited argument they appeared to have with each other and the judge, delaying their exit from the courtroom long after the jurors had been dismissed. However, the impetus seemed to be a comment made by West Goshen Sgt. Michael Carroll during his testimony.
Asked about a June 22, 2010, meeting he attended with members of the family of the victim, Kevin Mengel Jr., the officer said the family was concerned that their loved one was a victim of foul play, not simply a missing person. Prosecutors contend that Kevin Mengel had been killed by his wife, Morgan Mengel, and her paramour, Stephen Shappell, days earlier. Carroll said the Mengel relatives were accompanied by Morgan Mengel's father, who "appeared nervous." Elaborating, Carroll said: "He wanted me to know his daughter could be despicable."
The comment prompted defense attorney Jack McMahon to object strenuously, and after a brief sidebar conference, the judge issued a "curative" instruction to the jury. He explained that the remark was "inadmissible hearsay" and that the jurors needed to put it out of their minds. Whether they can seemed to be a topic of debate. Shappell is expected to take the stand sometime today -- unless McMahon can persuade the judge that a mistrial should be called.