A military judge declined yesterday to grant a new trial to a former Navy football player who was convicted of sexual assault after a juror said his peers on the seven-member panel of Naval Academy officers had a "lack of impartiality" during deliberations.
Maj. Robb Mansfield, an electrical engineering instructor, testified in a hearing at the Washington Navy Yard yesterday that he came forward just two days after the conclusion of Kenny Ray Morrison's trial last month with concerns about "the method in which we attacked, or undertook the deliberations."
Under questioning by Col. Stephen Day, the Marine Corps judge who oversaw the court-martial, Mansfield said he wanted to discuss "a jury irregularity."
"I felt there was a certain amount of a lack of impartiality, which was given by you in your instructions," he said.
Day did not delve further into Mansfield's perception, citing military law that forbids discussing deliberations except in extraordinary circumstances.
He ruled against granting Morrison a new trial, saying that there was no evidence that the verdict was influenced by coercion among jurors, information outside of evidence or pressure from Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the Naval Academy superintendent.
Morrison, 24, wore a midshipman's uniform and appeared upbeat in the two-hour hearing, assuring family members and friends after Day's ruling that "justice will come out eventually."
The Kingwood, Texas, native is still classified as a Naval Academy senior pending review of his trial.
Morrison began serving a two-year prison sentence in Charleston, S.C., last month after being found guilty of indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer for having sex with a female midshipman without her consent in February 2006.
His case has been eclipsed by that of Lamar S. Owens Jr., the former standout Navy quarterback who was acquitted of rape last year but found guilty of two related felonies for having sex in the Naval Academy dormitory. He was expelled from the Annapolis military college last month.
Harboring feelings that were "weighing on his conscience," Mansfield expressed his misgivings to Lt. Anne Marks, a Naval Academy lawyer, two days after Morrison was sentenced, according to an e-mail she sent to prosecutors that day.
"I don't remember exactly how he started, but he used the phrases 'jury tampering,' 'judge's instructions,' and 'beyond a reasonable doubt,'" Marks wrote. "He clarified he did not believe some of the members had followed the judge's instructions as to the standard of proof and beyond a reasonable doubt."
Mansfield, who said during jury screening that he believed the Naval Academy superintendent wanted a guilty verdict in the case, testified that he had not used the phrase "jury tampering," but "jury irregularity."
After excusing the Marine Corps officer, Day told prosecutors to cancel plans to call the rest of the jurors to the stand.
Seconds later, Morrison's father, Kenneth Ray Morrison Sr., stood up in the courtroom and used an expletive to refer to the proceedings.
"A juror comes forward to say that the jury totally disregarded the judge's instructions, and this judge won't let anyone say what happened," he said.
Later, outside the courtroom, he noted that the appeals process in the military provided little hope, since his son will have finished most of the sentence before the appeal would be decided. "I came today hoping that this judge would be fair and reasonable and that there would be a mistrial."
William Ferris, Morrison's civilian attorney, said he would appeal the ruling and the verdict, and Morrison was taken back to the Navy brig in Charleston.