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Palm Coast Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 1 year ago

Judge denies convicted rapist's request for new trial

The defense for Obtravies Watkins argued that a juror's hesitation in confirming the guilty verdict was cause for a new trial.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Circuit Judge Terrence Perkins has rejected a request by Obtravies Watkins, the 35-year-old registered sex offender convicted in 2018 of rape and attempted murder, for a new trial.

"Her hesitation to say yes to the question ... to me, that was a sign that she wasn’t sure."

— REGINA NUNNALLY, attorney for Obtravies Watkins 

Watkins has been tried and convicted in two locations — Volusia County and Flagler County — for the crimes, which crossed the counties' jurisdictional boundaries: Watkins had kidnapped a woman in Daytona Beach, driven her to a wooded lot off Old Kings Road in Flagler County, then raped her and tried to strangle her to death, twice leaving her for dead after she lost consciousness.

He had already been sentenced to two life terms in Volusia County when he went on trial in Flagler. 

In a motion before Perkins Feb. 11, Watkins' public defender, Regina Nunnally, sought Perkins' permission to hold a new trial for Watkins on the basis that, when jurors were polled as to whether the guilty verdict read in the courtroom was their true and correct verdict, one juror had seemed to hesitate before saying yes.

"Her hesitation to say yes to the question ... to me, that was a sign that she wasn’t sure," Nunnally told Perkins. Nunnally had also mentioned her concern to Perkins in the courtroom at the time, in a side bar conversation not audible to the jury. He had turned down her request to question the juror.

Perkins said he saw the juror's behavior differently: The jury had just been led into the room to take their seats after deliberating, and the juror in question, he said, had been glancing at the bailiff at the door when jurors were polled. 

"What happened is, when we polled, there was a hesitation as the juror went from glancing at that doorway to looking at us, and then responding," he said. "The hesitation that I detected was not in answering the question; the hesitation was in directing their attention."

Melissa Clark, the assistant state attorney who argued the case for the state, said that Nunnally was "speculating all over the place."

"When [the juror] was polled, her answer was 'Yes, that was my verdict,'" Clark said. 

Perkins denied the defense's motion for a new trial.

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