In January of this year, Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg, both football players at Vanderbilt University, were convicted of raping a fellow student in 2013. Now, as the sentencing phase begins, Vandenburg’s attorney is moving for a mistrial, arguing that the jury foreman failed to disclose that he was a victim of rape as a teenager.
Vandenburg and Batey were convicted on the strength of surveillance video that showed them and two other men dragging their unconscious victim down a dorm hallway. Prosecutors said Vandenburg took photo and video with his cellphone while the other three men assaulted the woman. (The other two men, Brandon E. Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie, both testified against Batey and Vandenburg. They are still awaiting trial.)
Batey’s attorney Worrick Robinson is now moving for a mistrial, arguing that 31-year-old jury foreman Todd Easter failed to disclose he was raped by an older man in 2000, when he was 16. That man, James Matthew Swift, was convicted of statutory rape. State records indicate he was 23 years old when convicted, was incarcerated or on probation until 2009, and remains registered as a sex offender.
On Monday, during what was meant to be the sentencing portion of the case, WSMV reports that Easter testified that he didn’t disclose the rape because he does not consider himself a rape victim. He said the relationship was consensual, but ended when he informed his parents, who pressed charges. Swift himself evidently approached the media with the information, according to WSMV:
You knew if you told them you had been a rape victim you wouldn’t have been on this jury?” an attorney asked Easter.
“It never crossed my mind,” replied Easter during Monday’s hearing.
Convicted rapist Matthew Swift approached local news media and revealed his relationship with Easter.
Robinson is arguing that Easter’s prior history as a victim of statutory rape means he had “presumed biases” in the case. Besides Easter, another juror also testified, saying that he wasn’t influenced by Easter during the proceedings. Judge Monte Watkins said he’ll issue a ruling on the mistrial motion next Tuesday.
Cory Batey enters the courthouse during jury selection in his trial, November 2014. Photo via AP Images