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A juror’s lack of candor during voir dire-discovered after a casual remark to a deputy sheriff-was not enough to reverse the conviction of the man on trial for abduction and sexual crimes, the Virginia Supreme Court held on Jan. 16. Blevins v. Virginia, No. 031022. Lawrence Blevins was convicted of object sexual penetration, malicious wounding and abduction with intent to defile, and was sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years. Six days after the trial, Blevins moved for a mistrial, alleging violations to his constitutional right to an impartial jury. During voir dire, jurors were asked whether they or members of their family had ever been victims of a serious criminal offense. All of them responded in the negative. At the trial’s end, a sheriff’s deputy offered to escort juror Bonnie Divers to her car, and told her she would have been reimbursed had she parked in a local garage. Divers replied that she did not want to park in the garage because she had been a victim of an armed robbery there 13 to 15 years earlier. The deputy informed prosecutors, who, in turn, told Blevins’ counsel. Blevins then moved for a mistrial. The trial court held a hearing on the motion, at which Divers said she must have misunderstood the question during jury selection. Emphasizing that she had no desire to sit on the jury, Divers said that she never would have lied to get on it. Divers added that her prior experience did not influence her decision, and that she had been a fair and impartial juror. Finding that Divers had not been dishonest when she failed to disclose the prior attack, the trial court held that Blevins was not entitled to a new trial because she had been impartial. It also said that with overwhelming evidence of his guilt, he was unable to show actual prejudice. Affirming, the state’s intermediate appellate court held that the trial court correctly denied the motion because evidence indicated that Divers had been impartial, and that her omission had been accidental. Blevins appealed again, arguing Divers’ lack of candor denied him his right to his peremptory challenges. But Virginia’s Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Blevins failed to prove actual bias. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedential 1984 ruling in McDonough Power Equip. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548, the Virginia high court said, “a litigant is entitled to a fair, but not perfect, trial, as there are no perfect trials.”

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