Rape retrial begins for ex-Vanderbilt football player
By Tim Ghianni NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) – Former Vanderbilt University football player Brandon Vandenburg’s retrial began on Wednesday with jury selection, nearly a year after a judge declared a mistrial following his conviction for the June 2013 rape of an unconscious female student.
The selection is taking place in Memphis, 200 miles away from the university in Nashville, out of concern that huge media coverage has made it hard to find impartial local jurors. Once a jury is selected, in a process expected to last three days, the trial will move to Nashville and the jurors will be sequestered, the district attorney’s office said in a phone call. The court has set opening arguments to begin on Monday. Vandenburg and former teammate Cory Batey, two of four Vanderbilt football players charged with counts of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery, were found guilty in January 2015. But Judge Monte Watkins declared a mistrial and set aside the convictions because one of the jurors had failed to disclose that he himself had been a rape victim. The men were assigned to separate retrials. Batey was convicted again in April, with sentencing set for July 13. Aggravated rape carries a prison sentence of 15-25 years. His attorneys have said they plan to appeal. Batey’s jury in his second trial was also selected outside of Nashville, in Chattanooga. The victim in the case, which drew national attention to sexual assaults on college campuses, had been drinking with friends and then with Vandenburg and was unconscious during the attack in a dorm room, prosecutors said. The trials of the other accused former football players, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie and Brandon Banks, are expected to occur after Vandenburg’s retrial. (Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Howard Goller and Richard Chang)