ITHACA, N.Y. — A man found guilty in 2016 of raping and beating a woman he knew will get a new trial after the appellate division determined that a woman considered as a juror used language that indicated that she was uncertain about whether she could be impartial.
Dryden man Jeffrey Horton was found guilty of felony first-degree rape — one of 11 of charges — on June 13, 2016 after a weeks long trial determined that he stalked a woman he knew, illegally entered her house through a dog door, and then brutally raped and beat her.
The woman he is accused of attacking took the stand and described the two-hour ordeal, and prosecutors showed graphic photos of her injuries, which kept her out of work for a month.
But Horton had always maintained his innocence to the major charges. When he testified, he said he slapped the woman for 10 -15 seconds and then stopped. Realizing what he’d done, he said he planned to go back home, but she asked him to stay and engage in sexual intercourse with her.
The Appellate Division overturned the conviction based on the equivocal answers given by a potential juror that the defense opted to use one of their limited challenges to dismiss, after the judge declined to dismiss the juror for cause.
The potential juror said she knew witness Ruth Crepet, a physician prosecutors intended to call as a witness. Crepet, the juror said, was her primary care physician for the past 15 years.
The decision says, “Although the juror stated that she had a preconceived notion that Crepet would be truthful, she indicated that she could be impartial and fair at trial in
that regard. This juror also stated that her husband was the victim of a robbery and, because the person “got off,” she was “a little cynical” about the criminal justice system, but “would try” to be impartial and thought “that [she] could be.” When asked if she could find defendant guilty, this juror stated “yes, you bet.”‘
The language she used was deemed “equivocal,” meaning that she had not clearly stated that she could be impartial during the trial.
During jury selection, the prosecution and defense both had 15 “peremptory challenges,” meaning that they could dismiss a potential juror with or without a reason. In the case of potential juror No.4, prosecutors didn’t object to having her on the jury, while the defense did object and used a challenge to keep her off the trial jury.
The defense later ran out of peremptory challenges before the entire jury was selected.
All the facts considered, if potential juror No.4 was objected to by both parties, then the trial could have ended up with a different jury and the case could have ended up with a different verdict.
Other issues were also raised by the defense and the court ruled to those, as well, though the issue with the juror is solely the cause for the case being overturned.
It was found that Horton’s decision to remain silent before the trial was used “improperly” by prosecutors and that evidence given by two witnesses should not have been permitted. His claims that the evidence was insufficient for conviction was dismissed.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia and Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama. Judge Joseph Cassidy oversaw the case.
Bonavia said the District Attorney’s Office will move forward with another trial against Horton.