People v. Gulyas.
2022 COA 34. No. 19CA0342. Sexual Assault on a Child—Juror—Challenge for Cause—Rape Shield Statute.
March 24, 2022
Defendant had a sexual relationship with T.B., her teenage tutee. She was charged with sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, sexual exploitation of a child, and internet sexual exploitation of a child. At the conclusion of voir dire, defense counsel challenged Juror R for cause based on a bias in favor of child witnesses. The court denied the challenge, and defendant was convicted as charged.
On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court should have excused Juror R because he acknowledged that he was more likely to believe a child witness than an adult witness. Here, Juror R’s statements indicated that he was unlikely to impartially evaluate the witnesses’ testimony without some intervention by the court. Thus, he either had to be rehabilitated or excused, which did not occur. Therefore, the trial court erred by not dismissing Juror R, and because he served on the jury, reversal was required.
Defendant also contended that the trial court abused its discretion by applying the rape shield statute to bar admission of evidence that she had previously been sexually assaulted. She maintained that the statute prohibits evidence related to “the victim’s” or “a witness’s” prior sexual conduct, and she was neither. Based on the rape shield statute’s clear purpose, a defendant is not a witness under its provisions, so the trial court erred.
The judgment of conviction was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial.