Crime & Courts Richmond Co. | Columbia Co. | Aiken Co. |

Judge orders new trial in child molestation

  • Follow Crime & courts

A man convicted of aggravated child molestation on Aug. 16 was granted a new trial date ­– but it wasn’t at his request.

Chapman  SPECIAL

Superior Court Judge David Roper ordered the post-verdict mistrial Tuesday after determining that he should not have allowed a physician to testify during Laquaine Chapman’s trial or permitted jurors to view “highly prejudicial” photos of the victim’s medical examination. He also issued “sua sponte,” or of his own volition, a new civil trial date to determine Chapman’s mental competency.

Chapman was indicted in January on two counts of aggravated child molestation and one count of child molestation after a 7-year-old girl accused him in November of sodomy. A jury found him guilty of all counts after a two-day trial.

Before the criminal trial, a civil trial was held to determine whether Chapman was mentally able to stand trial. A state psychologist evaluated Chapman in April and found him mentally competent.

However, the psychologist’s report also states that Chapman has a history of mental illness, including bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. A hospital examination also found that he has a history of seizures caused by a cyst in his brain, according to the order.

At the trial to determine Chapman’s competency, his mother testified to the history of seizures, delusional behavior and “long-term aberrant mental and behavioral history.” When the defendant testified, he said he did not know the meaning of an oath, but eventually said it meant he had to tell the truth. The civil trial jury found him competent to stand trial.

“From this judge’s observation, the defendant did not appear to sufficiently understand the proceedings in order to provide meaningful assistance to his counsel,” Roper wrote.

In ordering a mistrial, Roper presented issues he had as the trial judge with the testimony of a gynecologist who examined the victim. There was “considerable debate” before jury selection and opening statements about allowing the witness’s testimony.

“The court was concerned that the events to which the witness would testify were too remote in time to be connected to the alleged crimes, and that the witness’ testimony was too speculative to connect the defendant to the witness’ testimony,” Roper wrote.

The judge’s concern involves testimony that the victim’s hymen was intact during an examination in November but not during a pelvic examination in May.

There were also indications that the victim developed a sexually transmitted disease after the defendant’s arrest. The prosecution did not ask the victim during the trial whether she was ever molested by anyone other than the defendant, Roper wrote.

“Based upon the foregoing, the court finds that the physician’s testimony was highly indicative that the victim was sexually abused by someone other than defendant after his arrest, and that her testimony was too speculative to be probative,” Roper wrote.

Roper did not immediately respond to a request for comment. District Attorney Ashley Wright declined to comment directly on the case, but said her office was ‘looking at all of our appropriate procedural options.’”

Public Defender Kate Mason declined to comment on pending litigation.

Dan Hillman, the executive director of the Child Enrichment Center, said taking away the conviction can affect the victim. There’s nothing as effective in therapy for victims of child abuse as a conviction, he said.

From a legal perspective, issuing a mistrial post-verdict is unusual, but not uncommon, said Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University. Often it’s the result of a judge’s realization that a verdict could be reversed or doubts about whether the trial was fair.

“It’s unusual because most judges don’t want to admit they’re wrong,” Saltzburg said. “It’s a very responsible judge who realizes when it’s over” that it should have gone differently.

Attorney James Felman, the vice chairman of the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, echoed that opinion.

“Frankly it’s a pretty courageous move for a trial judge to do that,” Felman said.

Comments (6) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
corgimom 08/29/12 - 05:57 pm
So if you molest a child, and

So if you molest a child, and then someone else molests that child too, the first one gets a free pass?

And that baby is 7 years old. She contracted a STD at age 7. I guess the judge is saying that she has been raped at least twice by two different people.

That is too horrific for words. That poor baby.

Patty-P 08/29/12 - 10:47 pm

“It’s unusual because most judges don’t want to admit they’re wrong,”

Strange coming from a judge who himself has erred.

rebellious 08/30/12 - 12:08 am
Vigilante Justice

Needed here. God be with a man who does something like this to a 7 year old I love. A Time To Kill was a great movie, just ended wrong.

corgimom 08/30/12 - 06:09 am
So now he's free to rape more

So now he's free to rape more 7 year olds.

InChristLove 08/30/12 - 06:12 am
I don't believe the article

I don't believe the article is stating he will get a free pass....I believe it said he would get a new trial. He will most likely be convicted in this new trial, just as he was in the mistrial.

"Often it’s the result of a judge’s realization that a verdict could be reversed or doubts about whether the trial was fair."

Isn't the purpose of a trial, to make sure the accused gets a fair trial and if guilty, there is no room for a reversal. I'd rather go through a new trial now, while facts and memories are current, than later down the road, him get off in some appeal because facts are forgotten (or evidence lost).

CABoatright 08/30/12 - 07:06 am
Euthanize him.

Euthanize him.

daphne3520 08/30/12 - 09:15 am
You "self-proclaimed," Christians, especially those who don't

even libe here, need to wake up and smell the coffee! Especially when it comes to comments about a "accused," Child Molester or LGBT!

realitycheck09 08/30/12 - 11:34 am
Pitchforks and Torch Mob

Funny how no one thought that maybe, just maybe, this guy is not guilty? If someone else was molesting the young girl after the defendant was arrested...did it occur to anyone that maybe he wasn't the one molesting her in the first place?

I don't know anything about the facts of this case, but I find it quite odd that everyone just assumes that because someone (well...someone that looks like this guy as opposed to Scott Dean) is arrested for molestation that they're guilty. I bet if Scott Dean gets a new trial, the comments will commend the judge for "doing the right thing."

Wonder why Mr. Chapman doesn't get the benefit of everyone's doubt here?

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
Augusta VA supervisor sentenced to prison
In what the judge called a "tragic case," a former Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center supervisor was sentenced Thursday to 27 months in federal prison for making false statements in medical files.