Judge to make ruling next week on mistrial in Vanderbilt rape ca - WSMV News 4

Judge to make ruling next week on mistrial in Vanderbilt rape case

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Both Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were in the courtroom on Monday morning. Both Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey were in the courtroom on Monday morning.
Jury foreman Todd Easter is questioned during Monday's hearing. Jury foreman Todd Easter is questioned during Monday's hearing.

Judge Monte Watkins said Monday he will issue a ruling next Tuesday whether to grant a mistrial in the rape case of former Vanderbilt football players Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey.

Watkins heard testimony on Monday from jury foreman Todd Easter and others.

The defendants' attorneys said Easter was biased and did not reveal during jury questioning that he was a victim of statutory rape as a teen.

“There were specific questions. ‘Have you ever been the victim of rape or sexual assault? Has anyone you known been victim of unwanted sexual touching,'” said Worrick Robinson, Batey's attorney, to Easter.

The 31-year-old jury foreman, Todd Easter, maintains he was not a victim, but was in a consensual relationship with a neighbor named Matthew Swift in 2000. Swift was several years older than Easter. The relationship ultimately ended when Easter told his parents. Easter claims his statutory rape case was something his parents pursued and that he was against it. He said he never thought about it during the trial.

“You knew if you told them you had been a rape victim you wouldn't have been on this jury?” an attorney asked Easter. “It never crossed my mind,” replied Easter during Monday's hearing.

Convicted rapist Matthew Swift approached local news media and revealed his relationship with Easter.

“Mr. Easter was a victim in a 23-count indictment involving sex crimes against him,” said Robinson. “Mr. Easter's untruths or failure to disclose presumed biases.”

Prosecutors said Easter's history had no bearing on other jurors because they didn't know about it.

“Did you withhold information intentionally in order to get on this jury?” asked assistant district attorney Tom Thurman. “Absolutely not,” replied Easter.

“At this time do you believe you were a victim of any sexual assault,” asked Thurman. “Absolutely not,” replied Easter.

In a surprising turn, Monday afternoon, Fletcher Long, former defense attorney for Brandon Vandenburg took the stand as a witness. He told Channel 4 in an interview that he would not have allowed Easter to serve on the jury had he known about his past with Swift. "The person who was the defendant in that case [Matthew Swift] called me at my office in Clarksville and asked me, 'did you know, blank?' Which I didn't. So I was angry because I feel that violates the trial process. You know, the right to a trial by jury is to try your case to 12 impartial jurors, not 11."

Long said it doesn't matter if the other jurors were impartial. He said if a single juror was impartial, the verdict cannot stand.

Another juror from the Vanderbilt rape trial, Dr. Jeffrey Fleming also testified. He said he was not made aware of Easter's past until after the conclusion of the trial. Fleming said he was not influenced by him during deliberations.

The state argues Easter did not impact the decisions of any of the other jurors, that instead the compelling video evidence against Vandenburg and Batey in the Vanderbilt University dorm room in June of 2013 is what led to their convicted.

As a policy, Channel 4 does not name victims of sexual assault, unless they choose to come forward to tell their story. Easter and Swift, respectively, spoke with reporters about their case.

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