For a third time, a Bradenton man will stand trial on charges that he repeatedly sexually assaulted three young children.
Richard Kerestesy's first trial was declared a mistrial. In his second, he was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.
But Florida's 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed that conviction, ruling that a Manatee County judge erred during jury selection.
Kerestesy, 59, will be in a Manatee County courtroom for his third trial next week.
He is accused of sexually assaulting three siblings _ then as young as 6, 5 and 3 _ while babysitting them over a period of two years starting in 1994.
The appellate judges ruled that Kerestesy may have been convicted by a biased jury in 1998. The judges were swayed by statements made during jury selection at the second trial.
The appellate court said Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan forced Kerestesy's attorney to use peremptory challenges _ a limited number of jury "strikes" given to lawyers _ to disqualify two members of the jury pool. As a result, a potentially biased third juror served on the panel over the objections of Kerestesy's lawyer.
During the question-and-answer period used to select a jury, two potential jurors said they would be unable to be fair.
When Assistant Public Defender Peter Belmont, Kerestesy's attorney, asked the judge to disqualify both, Dunnigan refused. To get them excluded, Belmont had to use all of his remaining challenges.
The lawyer then had to accept a questionable third juror. During selection, that juror made comments that Belmont _ and later the appellate court _ interpreted as showing bias against Kerestesy. Dunnigan should not have allowed that juror to serve, the appellate court decided.