New trial for Blagg

No surprise here: Michael Blagg is getting a new trial.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said Wednesday he was “not at all critical” of District Judge David A. Bottger’s order granting Blagg a new trial, given the sheer volume of lies told by juror Marilyn Charlesworth.

After 23 days of testimony in April 2004, a Mesa County jury convicted Blagg of first-degree murder. He is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Charlesworth sat on that jury and became the focus of an effort by Blagg’s defense team to get a new trial based on their assertion that she lied when she denied on a juror questionnaire ever having been involved in domestic violence.

That contradicts statements she made in a divorce case and, separately, before the Grand Junction City Council. The judge summarized her web of deceit in his order:

“No one, not even Juror C herself, disputes that she has lied about whether she has ever been involved in domestic violence. The question is when. Did she lie when she told the court under oath in her divorce from Mr. Case that he had ‘physically beaten’ her ... or when she told the city council that she was a domestic abuse victim and survivor? Or did she lie when she told (investigators) that she had lied to the city council? Or when she testified in this hearing that she had lied about lying?”

The judge concluded that Charlesworth deliberately misrepresented important information that could have led to her dismissal from the jury, thus depriving Blagg of a fair trial.

Citing case law the judge wrote “this deliberate misrepresentation ‘is itself evidence that the juror was likely incapable of rendering a fair and impartial verdict…’”

In her zeal to help put away Blagg, Charlesworth provided the grounds for him to seek a new trial.

That’s unfortunate. Shameful, really. But the judge made the right call. The cornerstone of a trial-by-jury system is the integrity of the juror-vetting process.

A new trial is the price of true justice.

The cost of a new trial pales in comparison.

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