NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins approved a mistrial in the Vanderbilt rape case Tuesday afternoon.
In the court order declaring the mistrial, the court found that jury foreman Todd Easter, or Juror No. 9, “failed” to speak the truth during the selection process in the January trial.
“The defendants have a right to a fair and impartial trial, a right that was violated by Juror No. 9’s misconduct,” the order stated. “By failing to disclose being the named victim in a twenty-three count statutory rape indictment, the presumption of jury bias was met.”
Extended coverage: Vanderbilt Rape Trial
The order goes on to say, “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.”
The document is referring to jury foreman Easter’s past juvenile involvement with an adult male in Sumner County who was ultimately indicted and sentenced to prison due to their relationship, which he acknowledged in court on June 15.
However, Easter has maintained he viewed the relationship as consensual and noted his parents were the ones to file the original complaint, not himself.
Defense attorneys did not request a new trial in their motion for mistrial, but Tuesday’s court order states the proof and arguments presented for the mistrial “provides enough evidence that granting a new trial is necessary and appropriate in order to a fair determination of the defendants’ guilt or innocence.”
Web Extra: Full court order [PDF]
Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk along with Deputy DA Tom Thurman and assistant DAs Jan Norman and Roger Moore released the following statement Tuesday:
We respect the judge’s decision. This was an issue that fortunately does not come up very often. It serves to strike home the importance of the jury selection process. This Office will be requesting that a new trial date be set as soon as possible. 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. Anything further will be addressed in court.
The judge has called all parties involved in the case to his chambers Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. to discuss the future. DA Funk told WKRN they plan to request the new trial during that hearing.
Two other former students, Brandon Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, are accused in the case. However, their trials have yet to be set.