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Morrison v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Kentucky

September 28, 2017

ROBERT MORRISON APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE

         ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2014-CA-001818-MR HICKMAN CIRCUIT COURT NO. 14-CR-00023

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Shannon Renee Dupree Assistant Public Advocate

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General Gregory C. Fuchs Assistant Attorney General

          OPINION

          WRIGHT, JUSTICE

         A Hickman Circuit Court jury found Appellant, Robert Morrison, guilty of escape and fleeing or evading police and found him to be a first-degree persistent felony offender. The trial court sentenced Appellant to fifteen years' imprisonment. Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing the trial court erred in failing to strike a juror for cause, [1] and that court affirmed the trial court. Appellant sought discretionary review with this Court, which we granted. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the Court of Appeals and remand this matter to the trial court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts underlying the escape and fleeing or evading charges for which Appellant was convicted are not at issue in this appeal. Appellant's sole issue involves, jury selection. During voir dire, a juror, Mrs. Morris revealed that she was the mother of the County Attorney, Sue Ellen Morris. The judge called the juror to the bench for a colloquy. She was present during the entirety of the following exchange:

Judge: How ya doing today, Mrs. Morris?
Juror: Good.
Judge: You are Sue Ellen's mother?
Juror: Yes.
Judge: Would that cause you any problems today sitting, hearing this case, and rendering a decision?
Juror: I don't think so, but I didn't want-
Judge: . Well, we appreciate ya telling everybody so everybody else would know who you were.
Juror: Okay.
Judge: All right.
Defense: Judge, I would ask her-for her to be excused for cause. Sue Ellen is the-Ms. Morris-I'm sorry-is, the attorney who did the preliminary hearing. I just don't want there to be-albeit an appearance-and I don't think it cures it by asking her. I think there is pressure on her to say she can be unbiased and it's just too close to the case.
Judge: AH right. Commonwealth?
Prosecutor: I don't have a problem with her sitting. Like I said, I think she is ...

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