People v. Blassingame.
2021 COA 11. No. 16CA2200. Criminal Law—Jury Trial—Challenge for Cause.
February 11, 2021
Defendant and C.A. attended the same party. C.A. alleges that she took shots of alcohol and remembers nothing after that until she woke up with no pants on with defendant attempting to have sex with her. Defendant claims he had consensual sex with C.A. and when she told him she didn’t want to have sex again, he left. Defendant was charged with two counts of sexual assault. The trial court denied defense counsel’s challenge for cause as to Juror S, and a jury found defendant guilty of sexual assault—victim incapable of appraising conduct.
On appeal, defendant contended that the trial court erroneously denied his challenge for cause to Juror S. Juror S had disclosed on her questionnaire that she was molested by a family member when she was young and her father had not believed her allegation. After lengthy voir dire by defense counsel, the prosecution, and the judge, Juror S was still unsure of her ability to be a fair and impartial juror. The trial court found that Juror S could hold the prosecution to its burden of proof and concluded that she should not be removed unless she would credit the victim no matter what the rest of the evidence established. However, a prospective juror does not need to unequivocally state her partiality for one side to be deemed unfit to serve on a jury. Accordingly, the court erred in denying the challenge for cause.
The conviction was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.