Request to overturn child molestation conviction denied
By Ruth Ann Krauses Post-Tribune correspondent January 4, 2013 3:58PM
Updated: February 6, 2013 6:11AM
Lake Superior Court Judge Salvador Vasquez denied a request to set aside a jury verdict in a child molesting case based on alleged juror misconduct.
Vasquez denied the motion filed on behalf of Ventriss Ray-El Hulitt, 24, of Merrillville, who was convicted of child molesting in October and sentenced to 38 years in prison.
Defense attorney Scott King, who is handling Hulitt’s appeal, presented testimony from Camelia Vanzant of Hammond, who said a juror called her twice during the week of the trial and discussed evidence. One of the calls occurred before the verdict was reached.
Vanzant, who attended a portion of the trial and knows Hulitt, said she used to work with the juror at a medical office. Despite the judge’s order not to discuss the case with anyone or try to learn about it outside the courtroom, the female juror discussed evidence regarding a test for a sexually transmitted disease, a medical examination of the victim and the juror’s perspective that the victim’s testimony had been coached. The woman was not publicly identified during the hearing.
Vanzant said she offered an opinion that the STD had to come from somewhere, but never suggested the woman find Hulitt not guilty or steer her in that direction with her comments.
Deputy prosecutor Catherine Breitweiser-Hurst argued that there was sufficient evidence beyond what the juror discussed to support Hulitt’s conviction and that King must prove that the conversations had an impact on the ultimate outcome of the case. King countered that the impact the conversations had on the juror’s decision in the case can’t be known without getting sworn testimony from her.
Vasquez, however, said he would not allow King to contact the juror.
“I cannot say that we had gross (juror) misconduct,” the judge said, or that the verdict was tainted by the conversations the juror had with Hulitt’s friend.
King said he will file an appeal within 30 days.