July 21, 2006

WA: mmmm, doughnuts...

For a retrial after a successful appeal, news coverage as twisted as a cruller. From Northwest Cable News:

Man once convicted for child molestation could go free because judge accepted a doughnut

James Degroff, once convicted for child molestation, is getting a second chance to prove he never molested a 6-year-old girl four years ago. What’s so rare about this case is not that it's going back to court, but the reason why. The answer lies in the back halls of the Thurston County Courthouse.

In 2003, the first trial judge unwittingly unraveled the case by accepting an ordinary doughnut. The trouble is, the judge took the doughnut from a juror deciding the case...

A bit more than a doughnut, actually. Back in 2005, the Court of Appeals overturned DeGroff's conviction:

“We cannot ignore such allegations when we consider the other undisputed events in this case,” the court wrote. “The undisputed ex parte contacts that occurred in this case undermined the integrity and reliability of the trial to such an extent that we are unable to say beyond a reasonable doubt that DeGroff was not prejudiced by them.”

Defense counsel is Neil Fox, of Cohen and Iaria in Seattle.

1 Comment:

Jude said...

The judge had ex parte communication with two jurors. Forget the donut. One juror recognized a child in a video that was introduced into evidence. Another juror was involved in a domestic violence trial. These jurors notified the judge about their concerns. He addressed their issues but did not advise the attorneys of the matter. That's why the appeals court overturned DeGroff's conviction.