A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the rape case against two former Vanderbilt football players.
According to the Tennessean, Nashville Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins made the decision after defense attorneys for Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey argued last week that one of the jurors was biased because he withheld that he was a victim in a statutory rape case.
“The defendants have a right to a fair and impartial trial, a right that was violated by juror No. 9’s misconduct,” Watkins’ order reads, per WKRN. “By failing to disclose being the named victim in a twenty-three count statutory rape indictment, the presumption of jury bias was met.”
Vandenburg, 22, and Batey, 21, were convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery for the June 2013 on-campus assault of an unconscious female student after a 12-day jury trial in January. After the trial, defense attorneys discovered that one juror, now 31, was a victim in a statutory rape case in 2000 when he was 16.
The juror did not consider himself a victim because the charges stemmed from a “consensual relationship with a man seven or eight years older than him.” The juror testified in court last Monday that the relationship was “inconsequential” when it came to his ability to be a partial, unbiased juror in the case. Additionally, the juror said his parents were the ones who pursued charges in the statutory rape case, not him.
Nonetheless, Watkins declared a mistrial.
“Considering all of the circumstances outlined herein, actual bias has been clearly shown. Our system of justice cannot tolerate a trial with a tainted juror regardless of the strength of the evidence against the defendant,” Watkins order says.
Prosecutors say a new trial will be pursued.
From the Tennessean:
Defense attorneys will gather in court at 9 a.m. Wednesday to request bonds be reinstated for Brandon Vandenburg, 22, and Cory Batey, 21. Both men were out on bond awaiting the first trial. Prosecutors said they will seek a new trial date.
"This office will be requesting that a new trial date be set as soon as possible," a statement from the Nashville District Attorney's Office reads. "This ruling does not, in any way, affect the evidence that exists; nor does it affect the state's resolve to vigorously pursue justice in this matter. Justice may be delayed but it will not be denied."
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