New trial for convicted child molester
Published 3:13 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009
By By Kerry Whipple Bean
Larry Richard Chavers is nearly three years into a 31-year sentence for his conviction on charges of sexual abuse and sodomy of a child.
The judge who presided over the case is now retired.
The victim is now a teenager.
And an appeals court has ruled that one of the jurors in the case was actually not a resident of Alabama — and ordered a new trial.
Chavers was convicted in November 2006 on charges of sodomy and sexual abuse of a child. He appealed the case on the basis that one of the jurors did not actually live in Escambia County (Ala.).
Chavers — who also still faces charges of bail jumping and violating the Alabama Community Notification Act — was sentenced to 31 years after he was convicted.
Chavers’ attorney Paul Harden of Monroeville — who did not represent Chavers in his original trial — said he was proud for Chavers after the appeals court ruling.
The attorney general has two weeks to file for a rehearing in the matter, Harden said.
At a hearing in January 2007, a juror known as “juror No. 216” in the court documents testified that he maintained two residences — in Florida and Atmore — but admitted that his job at an Alabama community college required him to have an Alabama driver’s license.
The appeals court ruled in 2008 that the case needed to be remanded to the trial court to determine whether Chavers’ assertions about the juror’s residency were correct. The trial court ruled the juror’s Alabama residency was legitimate, and that decision was appealed again.
But in a split decision last week, the appeals court ruled that the case be sent back to the trial court because the majority of judges determined that the juror in question was actually not a resident of Alabama.
The appeals court examined the evidence that juror No. 216 had been employed at Reid State Technical College for 15 years, where his employment required an Alabama driver’s license. According to testimony, juror No. 216 paid income taxes in Alabama for 30 years; received his mail, jury summons and driver’s license in Escambia County, Ala., and that all four of his motor vehicles were registered in Alabama.
In testimony in 2007, juror No. 216 said he and his wife owned property in Florida, just over the state line from Atmore.
The juror’s sister also testified that she owned two properties in Atmore and that her brother stayed at one of them “on occasion,” but she was “unable to say how often he stayed there,” according to the court opinion.
In a dissenting opinion, Judge James Allen Main said that juror No. 216’s income tax records, driver’s license and motor vehicle registrations, as well as his time spent at a home in Alabama, were enough to establish residence.
The charges were brought against Chavers after the then 8-year-old child’s grandmother reported the allegations to authorities in June 2004.
The trial was held in Escambia County Circuit Court, where jurors heard testimony from the victim, her grandmother, her mother and medical and counseling professionals. Josh Bearden with the state attorney general’s office tried the case, and Judge Joseph Brogden presided.
During the trial, the girl identified Chavers as the man who assaulted her and told the jury of about at least 15 instances in which he fondled her or tried to have sex with her.
Before his sentencing, Chavers allegedly tried to flee the country and was apprehended in Mexico. He later was charged with bail jumping and failing to file required forms giving notice as a sex offender of intent to transfer residence. He has yet to stand trial on those charges.
When announcing those charges in April 2007, Attorney General Troy King said Chavers could be sentenced to life on those charges as a habitual offender.