Judge declares mistrial in Vanderbilt rape case - WSMV News 4

Judge declares mistrial in Vanderbilt rape case

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Brandon Vandenburg (L) and Cory Batey were found guilty on all charges in January. Brandon Vandenburg (L) and Cory Batey were found guilty on all charges in January.

A mistrial was declared for Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey in the Vanderbilt rape case.

Judge Monte Watkins' verdict came down on Tuesday afternoon. Click here to read the full order.

Defense attorneys argued last week that their clients did not get a fair trial. They believe the jury foreman may have been prejudiced or biased because he was a victim of statutory rape.

The foreman, Todd Easter, did not tell attorneys he was a victim before he was chosen for the trial. No one found out until after Batey and Vandenburg were found guilty of all counts of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery in January.

Vandenburg was also convicted of unlawful photography and tampering with evidence.

Easter took the stand last week and said he didn't consider himself a victim and never thought about his case.

Defense attorneys said this was unfair and even one impartial juror is unconstitutional.

Tuesday, Watkins ruled in their favor. He said it is not credible that Easter would have never thought of his own 23-count rape case in the trial.

Sunny Eaton, Easter's attorney, issued a statement on Tuesday.

"Mr. Easter stands by his original statement that he neither lied nor intentionally misrepresented himself during the jury selection process," Eaton said in the statement. "He has immense remorse about the impact this is having on the victim and parties involved. Out of respect for the victim, Mr. Easter declines to make any further statements at this time."

Both former Vanderbilt football players have been in the Davidson County Jail since being convicted. They face anywhere from 15 to 60 years in prison on the aggravated rape charges.

Vandenburg and Batey will be in court on Wednesday for a bond hearing. Defense attorneys will request their bonds be reinstated.

Channel 4 legal analyst Jim Todd said Watkins made a difficult but courageous decision because the law says every party is entitled to a fair trial.

"That court does not want to go through this trial again. The prosecutors don't want to go through this trial again. The defense attorneys don't want to go through it again. The victim doesn't want to go through it again," Todd said. "But you have a fundamental right to a fair trial. And as Judge Watkins said in his order, despite the weight of the proof, that right to a fair trial is fundamental and must be upheld."

James Blumstein, a university professor at Vanderbilt Law School, said he can't remember the last time a case of this magnitude resulted in a mistrial. Blumstein commented on the frequency of mistrials in general.

"They're not the norm, thank goodness," Blumstein said. "But they're not unusual where this is a miscarriage of justice or some sense of bias. That's part of our system."

Worrick Robinson, Batey's attorney, visited Batey at the Davidson County Jail after the motion was granted. He did not want to comment.

District Attorney Glenn Funk said in a statement that his office will seek a new trial date as soon as possible.

"We respect the judge's decision. This was an issue that fortunately does not come up very often," Funk said in the statement. "It serves to strike home the importance of the jury selection process.

"This Office will be requesting 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."

Ed Yarbrough, who is representing the victim in this case, spoke to Channel 4 after Watkins' decision came down.

"We feel it's not appropriate to make a comment at this time because we have two cases pending," Yarbrough said.

Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson sent the following statement after Tuesday's ruling:

"The resolve of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department to seek justice on behalf of the courageous victim in this case is as strong today as when the investigation began. Lead detectives Jason Mayo, Chad Gish and Sgt. Mike Shreeve, along with the men and women of the police department who supported them, will absolutely be prepared to again present their findings in future legal proceedings as necessary."

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