GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The former Hancock County High School coach found guilty of inappropriately touching a player was back in court Monday asking for a new trial. Leslie Dewitt's attorney said an unqualified juror is the reason she needs a new trial. But the prosecution said this is Dewitt's last ditch effort to overturn a guilty verdict.
A courtroom full of family and friends listened to Leslie Dewitt and her attorney Jim Davis plead with a judge to give her a new trial. Last month, Dewitt was sentenced to 30 years behind bars after a jury found her guilty of two counts of touching a child for lustful purposes. Davis filed an appeal claiming juror number 26 had not been honest during the voir dire process.
"One of the requirements to sit as a juror, you have to be a registered voter or have lived, be a real estate owner and have lived in the county for a year or longer. He was not a registered voter and he had not lived in the county for a year," Davis said about juror number 26.
Davis said if the juror had been honest, he would have never been selected to be on the jury.
"I never knew he was not a registered voter until at the end of the trial. The circuit clerk started preparing checks to pay these jurors that served and that's when they realized that this guy's not a registered voter," Davis explained.
But at that point it was too late. The alternate jurors were excused and the jury was about to give a verdict. The prosecution said the trial was done correctly and the defense should have taken care of the issue before the jury was selected.
"The mere fact that someone is not a resident of Hancock County doesn't undo the verdict. And we argued that the defense knew that ahead of time. That was something that was listed by this juror on his juror information card. It was known to all parties and it should have been raised at the time the jury was empaneled," said assistant D.A. Alison Baker.
Dewitt also asked the judge to reconsider her 30-year sentence, handed down in October. Her attorney said that amount is too harsh and if the judge does not grant a motion for a new trial then they are asking for a motion for a bond pending appeal.
The prosecution said bond shouldn't be allowed because Dewitt has no motivation to show back up in court and is a risk to herself and the victim and other victims.
Court reconvenes Tuesday morning and the judge expects to reach his decision by the afternoon.