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Judge declares mistrial after prosecutor, witness exposed to substance during trial

Posted at 4:31 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 13:00:36-04

The Highland County prosecutor and an investigator were exposed to a substance during a trial, according to Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera.

Prosecutor Anneka Collins and the investigator were exposed while Collins was going over evidence during trial and the investigator was on the witness stand, Barrera said.

Barrera said the substance to which the two were exposed is still under investigation, but he confirmed medics responding did need to use Narcan to revive both Collins and the investigator.

The trial was a joint one for meth trafficking in Highland County and officials said it's still not clear what caused Collins and the witness to become sick.

On Wednesday, following the incident, a Highland County judge declared the case a mistrial, setting a new date for a new trial for July 11. After the incident, the trial had been adjourned until March 30.

"I think everyone shifted from, let's put this trial aside for a moment and let's see what's going on," said Andres Fuenzalida, defense attorney for Christopher Hertzler, a defendant in the trial. "Obviously, someone's life was at risk. This is scary stuff. We don't know what substance was that she handled, so I'm not going to say names. But Narcan was used to get this person back into consciousness, so to speak."

Court documents state that Collins and the witness she had been questioning were given medical treatment and transported to the hospital while some jurors were in the courtroom and some were in a downstairs hallway.

"During the time this was occurring, some statements were made in the downstairs hallway that it appeared Ms. Collins may have been exposed to a drug which statements were made in the presence of some jurors," reads the declaration of a mistrial.

Collins and the investigator were taken to the hospital on Tuesday; Barrera said they are both awake, alert and talking and he expected they would be released later that day.

The investigation remains ongoing, Barrera said.