Attorneys: Deadlocked jury forced to find Melanie Curtin guilty in Perkins sex case, want new trial
UPDATE: A judge has denied Melanie Curtin's request for a new trial. Read the latest here.
LIVINGSTON – Lawyers for the woman convicted first in a scandalous and wide-ranging sex crimes ring want the conviction thrown out.
Lawyers for Melanie Curtin argue, among other things, jurors were forced by the judge into reaching a conviction on aggravated rape and video voyeurism charges in December and that one juror felt “uncomfortable with his vote” to convict Curtin.
Curtin was accused of helping former Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputy Dennis Perkins record a 17-minute video showing the rape of an unconscious victim in 2014.
Dennis Perkins is awaiting trial on a list of sex crimes. His wife Cynthia, who was also charged in connection with the case, took a plea deal to testify against him Monday. The couple were facing a combined 150 counts of sex crimes, including some against children and animals.
In exchange for pleading guilty and testifying against her husband, Cynthia Perkins will be sentenced to 41 years in prison.
Curtin was first to stand trial late last year and was convicted. She is facing a mandatory life sentence.
During the trial against Curtin, the victim testified she was drinking with Curtin and Dennis Perkins and woke up the next morning with a hangover but no memory of what happened the previous night. A defense attorney countered Curtin was drugged at the time of the rape but no evidence was gathered that could verify that assertion.
After more than seven hours of deliberations, the jury found Curtin guilty. Although, it’s the deliberations that are being questioned by Curtin’s attorneys in newly filed court documents.
Curtin’s attorneys argue after about six hours of discussions, the jury was deadlocked – eleven to one – and could not come to a unanimous decision, as required.
The jurors wrote a note to the judge, according to court documents: “Eleven to one for rape verdict. We can not agree to a charge. Eleven for aggravated, one for not guilty. What do we do?”
The judge ordered the jurors to keep deliberating. An hour later, they determined Curtin was guilty.
Defense attorneys argue the forced deliberations skewed the jury and the note was the jury’s plea that members would not be able to agree.
“The word ‘not’ had been underlined several times,” attorneys wrote. “The court should have granted a mistrial at this point,” according to the new filing. Attorneys said the word “not” being reinforced by the annotation by jurors was proof they were too deadlocked to agree unanimously.
Additionally, attorneys said one of the jurors reported being uneasy about their decision to convict and wanted to change their mind.
After the trial, a “juror told [Curtin’s defense attorney] that he was ‘uncomfortable with his vote’ and wanted to do something about it,” attorneys wrote.
Attorneys asked that the juror testify at a later hearing related to the request for a new trial.
In the last few weeks, the WBRZ Investigative Unit has spoken with multiple members of the jury who described the trial as trying. None wanted their names used in a news report and they declined interviews. Although, everyone who spoke in conversations with WBRZ believed they delivered justice.
The jury was made up of four women and eight men.
A hearing has been set for March to discuss the request for a new trial.
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