UPDATE (7/30): The motion for a new trial filed last year has been granted and a status conference is scheduled Aug. 8. A retrial date may be set at that time.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) (10/30/2020) — An attorney is seeking a new trial for a man convicted of manslaughter after becoming aware a juror withheld pertinent information when questioned during the jury selection process.
Attorney Jared Thompson has filed a motion for a new trial for Dominick Curley, convicted earlier this month of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.
A day after the trial ended, a juror contacted the court and said another juror had discussed a case involving a family member who had been involved in a deadly crash and convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter. This juror told the rest of the jury that since his father had been convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter, Curley deserved to be found guilty of the same crime.
The juror who contacted the court said the other juror refused to fairly consider the evidence in Curley’s case, and had made up his mind regarding Curley’s guilt based on the earlier, unrelated case involving his father.
Thompson said in the motion the juror in question never disclosed to the court during voir dire that his father had been in a deadly crash and convicted, despite having multiple opportunities to do so. Voir dire is the name given to the process where potential jurors are questioned by the judge and attorneys.
If he had known of the case involving the juror’s father, he would have used a challenge to excuse him from the jury, Thompson said. The juror chose to keep that information secret.
“There is no other reasonable excuse for failing to disclose the information and it strongly suggests that this juror had ulterior motives for wanting to serve as a trial juror,” Thomson said. “In any event, had this information been disclosed as it should have been, there is no possibility I would have allowed the (juror) to remain on the jury panel.”
By sharing the information regarding his father’s conviction, the juror “poisoned” the entire jury panel, Thompson said in the filing. Before that information was shared, there were four to five jurors who were undecided or had serious doubts as to whether Curley had acted grossly negligent, according to the filing.
On Sept. 22, 2017, Curley drove his Pontiac Vibe south on Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road, north of Oak Creek Road. A Kia Optima driven by Lynn Marie Noyce, 47, of Palmdale was traveling in the northbound lane.
Curley crossed double yellow lines to enter the northbound lane and pass other vehicles, witnesses told officers. He began swerving after re-entering the southbound lane and lost control of his car, veering into the northbound lane and colliding with the Optima.
Noyce died at the scene. Data taken from Curley’s car found it was traveling between 80 to 90 mph at impact, according to court documents.