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A judge in Tennessee on Tuesday declared a mistrial in the case of two former Vanderbilt University football players who were already convicted of rape — ruling that a juror who served as foreman wasn't truthful about his involvement in another sexual assault case.
Corey Batey and Brandon Vandenburg were convicted were convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery in January for allegedly raping a fellow student in a dorm room on June 23, 2013.
On Tuesday, a Davidson County judge ruled that a juror who served as foreman in the case was a victim and key witness in a past statutory rape case, but never disclosed that during jury selection, raising fears he was prejudiced against the defendants.
"Our system of justice cannot tolerate a trial with a tainted juror regardless of the strength of the evidence against the defendant," Judge Monte D. Watkins wrote in the order.
District Attorney Glenn Funk said in a statement to NBC station WSMV his office respects the judge's decision, He called the circumstances unusual, and said the ruling doesn't mean the crime did not occur. A new trial date will be sought.
"This Office will be requesting a new trial date be set as soon as possible," Funk said in the statement. "This ruling does not, in any way, affect the evidence that exists; nor does it affect the state's resolve to vigorously pursue justice in this matter. Justice may be delayed but it will not be denied."
The juror, Todd Easter, came forward after the convictions and accusations that he misrepresented his past. His attorney told WSMV in a statement Tuesday that Easter never intentionally lied or misrepresented himself, and that "he has immense remorse about the impact this is having on the victim and parties involved."
Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said his detectives who investigated the case would "will absolutely be prepared to again present their findings in future legal proceedings as necessary."
"The resolve of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department to seek justice on behalf of the courageous victim in this case is as strong today as when the investigation began," Anderson said in a statement.