Appeals court tosses porn conviction

DAN SEWELL Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out a northeast Ohio child pornography conviction because of a juror who said he was repulsed by graphic images.

A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ordered a new trial for a man who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison and to pay $3,000 in restitution to a child victim, among other conditions. A federal jury in 2011 had found Trent Shepard of Poland, guilty on three counts of receiving visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of attempted receipt.

The images were allegedly found on laptops belonging to a financial company he had worked for from his home. Court records state that Shepard indicated he didn't know how the material got into his computer.

The three-judge panel unanimously agreed Shepard was deprived of his right to a fair and impartial jury by the trial judge's failure to remove a juror who expressed disgust about child pornography.

"He (the juror) expressed without qualification his belief that child pornography was evidence of 'the lowest form of humanity' and is 'just disturbing,' " Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey wrote in their opinion.

The juror, who wasn't identified, had expressed reservations during jury questioning, but said he could follow the law. However, he raised more concerns after being sworn in, saying he had two small children and couldn't view child pornography.

"I don't want those images in my head, trying to get those out of my head for the next 10 years," the juror said when questioned by the prosecutor, according to court documents. The judge declined to dismiss the juror and rejected a motion for a mistrial.

The appeals panel said the juror should have been removed, "in light of this evidence of bias and inability to follow" his oath.

Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Cleveland, said it was too soon to comment or say whether the ruling would be appealed. Shepard's attorney didn't immediately return a call.

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