Abused juror may force new trial for convicted sex offender
A former Mesa resident, church deacon, retired police officer and school board member deserves a new trial in a child sex-assault case because a juror failed to disclose being a childhood victim of sexual abuse, attorneys argued Friday.
Rodney Eddy, 72, who is serving a prison term of 16 years to life at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Center, is seeking a new trial following his August 2010 conviction in Mesa County on eight felonies.
Eddy was convicted on charges stemming from multiple sexual encounters with an underage girl, from 2003 to 2008, while the girl was living at Eddy’s former home in Mesa.
Public defender Steve Colvin recently filed a motion for a new trial after a man who served on Eddy’s jury disclosed he was sexually abused in Grand Junction at age 12. The man has said he was molested in 1965 by a Catholic priest in Grand Junction — claims which were the subject of testimony Friday by a Mesa County Sheriff’s Office investigator.
Asked in a written questionnaire sent to prospective jurors before Eddy’s trial if he or anybody close to him was a victim of sexual abuse, the man answered “No.”
“I never should have been on that jury,” the man testified in a hearing Friday before District Judge Valerie Robison. “It wasn’t honest and I didn’t give this man a fair shake.”
In a signed affidavit prepared by a defense investigator, the man acknowledged he was looking forward to getting “payback” for childhood wrongs against him once he learned the nature of the allegations in Eddy’s case. The meaning of the man’s “payback” statement was hotly debated Friday.
Alleged prejudicial juror non-disclosures and their impact on Mesa County justice are the heart of a dispute in another high-profile local case. Convicted killer Michael Blagg, 50, is also seeking a new trial amid claims a woman who served on Blagg’s trial jury failed to disclose being the victim of domestic violence. Blagg is serving life without parole after being convicted at trial in the 2001 murder of his wife, Jennifer.
Blagg’s motion for a new trial is scheduled for a three-day hearing in May,
Eddy’s case, meanwhile, has already been considered by two juries.
His first trial ended in February 2010 with the jurors deadlocked on sexual assault charges.
He was convicted on a lone count of felony obscenity. Six months later, another Mesa County jury panel convicted Eddy on four counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and four similar counts for a pattern of abuse.
He was acquitted on eight other charges.
Andrew Nolan, an attorney who defended Eddy in both trials, testified on Friday he would have challenged and removed any juror panelist who disclosed a childhood history of sexual abuse; particularly in a case with allegations of child sexual abuse.
“As a defense attorney, are you ever going to gamble on that when someone’s looking at a possible life sentence?” Colvin asked during Friday’s hearing.
“No,” Nolan replied.
The juror at issue in Eddy’s case testified he had a “bias” at the start of Eddy’s trial, but said it went away over the course of the trial as he evaluated the evidence. The man also testified he kept an open mind.
“Did you follow the law the judge gave you?” Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Savage asked.
“Yes,” he said.
Mesa County sheriff’s investigator Peter Burg testified he approached the regional leadership of the Roman Catholic Church about the priest abuse allegations raised by the juror. Burg said church officials told him they weren’t aware of evidence or allegations of abuse against the priest.
The status of the inquiry by the Sheriff’s Office or other entities wasn’t clear Friday.
Judge Robison said Friday lawyers can lodge additional arguments in writing over the next month. She said she’ll issue a written ruling on Eddy’s motion for a new trial.
Eddy was a deacon at Mesa View Bible Church, a retired officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, a member of the Plateau Valley school board and a substitute teacher. Some two dozen people, many of them supporters, sat behind the defense’s table during Friday’s hearing.