REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2015-CA-001198-MR UNION
CIRCUIT COURT NO. 14-CR-00032
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Dax Ryan Womack WOMACK LAW OFFICE, LLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of
Kentucky Leilani K.M. Martin Assistant Attorney General
evening of January 11, 2014, eleven-year-old
Jessica went to the Sturgis Youth Center in Union
County, Kentucky. Jessica was there with her mother, who was
facilitating the Youth Center's concession stand. While
Jessica and another child were playing air hockey, Appellant,
Phillip Edmondson, offered a dollar to Jessica if she could
score a goal. Jessica scored four separate goals during the
game. Each time Appellant paid her the reward, he grabbed her
buttocks. Later in the evening, Appellant grabbed
Jessica's buttocks once more when saying goodbye. Unable
to verbally communicate the prior events, Jessica created a
written note on her cell phone describing Appellant's
inappropriate touching. Jessica then showed the note to her
friend while the two were still at the Youth Center.
Jessica's friend told her mother about the note, who in
turn told Jessica's mother. At that time, Jessica's
mother contacted law enforcement. A video from the Youth
Center was collected and, according to law enforcement,
corroborated Jessica's claims.
was subsequently indicted by a Union Circuit Court grand jury
on a single count of first-degree sexual abuse. On June 22,
2015, Appellant was convicted of the crime charged. In
conformity with the jury's recommendation, Appellant was
sentenced to six years' imprisonment. Soon thereafter,
Appellant filed a motion for a new trial pursuant to Kentucky
Rule of Criminal Procedure ("RCr") 10.02, which the
trial court denied. On July 22, 2016, the Court of Appeals
affirmed the trial court's judgment and sentence.
Appellant's appeal now reaches this Court by way of
Court granted discretionary review in order to address
Appellant's claim that he was denied a fair and impartial
jury due to Mark Danhauer, the jury foreman, being the
brother-in-law of an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney, Mike
Williamson. Originally, Mr. Williamson was assigned the case.
However, due to Mr. Williamson's previous representation
of Appellant, another Commonwealth Attorney, J. Zachary
Greenwell, prosecuted the case. Despite the conflict, Mr.
Williamson assisted Mr. Greenwell during jury selection. Mr,
Williamson had no further involvement in Appellant's
prosecution. Subsequent to Appellant's conviction, but
before his final sentencing, defense counsel discovered Mr.
Danhauer's relationship to Mr. Williamson.
Appellant's motion for a new trial quickly followed.
review of Appellant's claim requires a thorough
recitation of the voir dire proceeding. As voir dire began,
the trial court commenced with conducting preliminary
examination of the venire panel. First, the trial judge
prompted members of the venire panel to approach the bench if
they believed they could not serve on the jury. At that time,
numerous venire panelists who had a familial relationship
with the parties approached the bench. Of the venire
panelists who approached, all but one, were excused for cause
including, but not limited to, ironically,
Appellant's brother-in-law. Jessica's aunt,
and a relative of one of Jessica's family members were
also excused. The trial judge continued her examination by
explaining to the venire panel that, ''few folks in
that group were related or knew someone involved in the
case." She then asked, "Is there anyone else in the
audience that feels for some reason, some pressing reason . .
. that has an issue with being here today?" Additional
venire panel members approached the bench and explained
knowledge of the situation. At no time did Mr. Danhauer
approach the bench. The trial judge also introduced Mr.
Greenwell and asked if anyone was related to him, to which
Mr. Greenwell informed the court that his cousin was in the
venire panel. Mr. Greenwell's cousin was then excused.
Subsequently, Mr. Greenwell informed the trial court that his
friend from college, whom he dated twenty-five years prior,
was also sitting on the panel. Again, neither Mr. Greenwell
nor Mr. Williamson mentioned any relationship with Mr.
these preliminary questions were asked, the trial judge
introduced Mr. Williamson to the venire panel and asked the
Is anyone represented by Mr. Williamson, or have a
relationship that we've not been made aware of that might
impair their ability to be fair and impartial in this case?
If you'll come forward please. If you feel that your
relationship would prohibit you from being fair and
taped recording of this portion of the record, which the
Court has carefully reviewed, focuses solely on the bench.
There is no indication that anyone, including Mr. Danhauer,
had any reaction to this question. In fact, the trial judge
went on to her next question instantaneously, without any
pause or hesitation.
during voir dire, when Mr. Greenwell took over questioning,
Mr. Williamson was once again introduced to the venire panel.
Mr. Williamson's wife,  who was sitting next to Mr.
Williamson at the attorney's table, was also introduced
to the venire panel. Again, Mr. Danhauer's relationship
to Mr. Williamson was not disclosed to the Court.
13, 2015, the trial court conducted a hearing on
Appellant's motion for a new trial, during which Mr.
Danhauer testified. Mr. Danhauer claimed that when the trial
judge asked if anyone was related to Mr. Williamson, he
raised his hand and stood up to make his way to the bench.
However, before Mr. Danhauer reached the bench he returned to
his seat because the trial judge qualified her question by
stating that the relationship would need to impede the
juror's ability to make an impartial and fair decision.
Consequently, Mr. Danhauer did not believe he was obligated
to inform the trial court about his familial relationship
with Mr. Williamson because he assumed he could still be fair
counsel argued that he had no recollection of Mr. Danhauer .
making any affirmative acknowledgment following the trial
judge's question. Defense counsel maintained that had he
known about the relationship, he would have asked the trial
court to remove Mr. Danhauer for cause, or at the very least
placed the matter on the record. Defense counsel also
provided the trial court with numerous cases where a new