WEBBER V. COMMONWEALTH, 2013 VA. APP. LEXIS 171, 2013 WL 2436593 (VA. CT. APP. JUNE 4, 2013)
A jury found defendant guilty of one count of aggravated sexual battery. The Circuit Court of Loudoun County (Virginia) sentenced defendant to one year in prison. Defendant appealed.
Defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying a number of challenges for cause to members of the venire, and by failing to sua sponte dismiss several members of the venire for cause. The appellate court held that the trial court erred in denying two of defendant’s challenges for cause. The first juror first indicated that she had been exposed to children who alleged they had been abused and then later indicated she had witnessed her sister being molested by her stepfather. While the first juror indicated that she could put that aside, it was in response to a leading question and the trial court precluded further questioning by defense counsel, a right afforded under Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-358. As to the second juror, the appellate court noted her admission that she, as a teacher, might have greater suspicion against defendant because he was an older male and the victim was a younger female. The second juror also indicated that she had a daughter. While the second juror later indicated she thought she could put that aide, it was also in response to a leading question, leaving the appellate court with doubt as to whether she was able to sit impartially.
Defendant’s conviction was reversed and the case was remanded for addition proceedings if the Commonwealth was so advised.
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