HELENA — The Montana Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a Havre man who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in January 2011.
Justices on March 17 ruled that Edward Harold Ghostbear did not receive a fair trial because District Judge Daniel Boucher failed to disqualify a juror who said she would tend to believe a child who testified about being sexually abused.
Defense counsel used one of his six peremptory challenges to remove the juror and then used Ghostbear's remaining peremptory challenges.
Under case law, if a district court denies a legitimate for-cause challenge, the error requires automatic reversal, justices noted.
During trial, the girl testified that Ghostbear sexually abused her in a church basement.
Ghostbear was sentenced in September 2017 to 15 years in prison with 10 suspended. He remains an inmate at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, according to the Department of Corrections website.
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