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State v. Gollas-Gomez

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 6, 2018

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
EDUARDO GOLLAS-GOMEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and submitted October 26, 2017

          Washington County Circuit Court C142909CR; Thomas W. Kohl, Judge.

          Kenneth A. Kreuscher argued the cause and fled the brief for appellant.

          Christopher R. Page, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the briefs were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before DeHoog, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Aoyagi, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction for five counts of sexual abuse in the first degree. During voir dire, in response to questioning by defense counsel, a prospective juror who was previously employed by the Department of Human Services stated that he would give weight to the testimony of certain state's witnesses and that he would do so despite recognizing that it was "partial" to do so. Defendant moved to strike the prospective juror for cause. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal from his subsequent conviction, defendant asserts that the trial court abused its discretion by not striking the prospective juror. Held: The trial court abused its discretion. The prospective juror's statements during voir dire called into question his ability to decide the case fairly and impartially, and this was not a situation in which the trial court could evaluate contradictory statements and thereby determine in its exercise of discretion that the juror was not actually biased.

         Reversed and remanded.

         [292 Or.App. 286] AOYAGI, J.

         Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for five counts of sexual abuse. In his first assignment of error, he argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to strike a prospective juror, Juror 11, for cause. Because we agree with defendant, we reverse and remand for a new trial, and we do not reach his other assignments of error.

         The relevant facts are procedural and undisputed. The state charged defendant with five counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, ORS 163.427, based on alleged incidents involving his two daughters, aged 11 and 12 years old. During the voir dire portion of jury selection, defense counsel questioned potential jurors in aid of making challenges for cause and exercising peremptory challenges. One potential juror was Juror 11. Juror 11 had identified himself as having worked for the Department of Human Services (DHS), which led to the following exchange with defense counsel:

"[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: *** You work for DHS?
"JUROR 11: I did. ...

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