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Failure to Dismiss Biased Juror Leads to New Trial in Molestation Case

June 8, 2018

In DeSantos v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s child molestation conviction and held that the trial court erred in refusing to excuse a potential juror for cause when he repeatedly expressed bias about the nature of the molestation allegations against the defendant and could not say that he could fairly consider the evidence.

The prospective jurors were informed in voir dire that the defendant was charged with three separate acts of child molestation involving an eleven-year-old boy. One juror stated that he had eleven-year-old and eight-year-old brothers and that the facts of the case hit close to home for him.

When questioned about his ability to be impartial, he stated “I’d feel like I’d still be a little biased…” He gave a similar response when asked if he could be fair. When asked whether he had already made a decision in the case, he stated “I definitely kind of jumped to conclusions…,” and agreed that it would prevent him from weighing the evidence fairly. The trial court ultimately denied defense counsel’s request that the juror be excused for cause. The defendant was subsequently convicted of the molestation charges at trial

The Court of Appeals noted that the juror expressed clear doubts about his ability to be impartial and fairly weigh the evidence. The Court further explained that, even after further questioning by the State and the trial court, the juror still failed to give the necessary response that he could lay aside his prejudice and impartially decide the case based on the evidence at trial.

Therefore, the Court concluded that it was error to refuse to strike this juror for cause. As a result, the defendant’s child molestation conviction was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.

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