The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a Fernley man convicted of child sexual assault.
Joshua Lockwood was charged in March 2007 with three counts of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl.
A Lyon County jury convicted him in December 2007 and the judge sentenced him to three consecutive life terms in prison. With a minimum time of 20 years on each count, he would not be eligible for parole for at least 60 years.
But the foreman of the jury admitted to conducting her own Internet research into whether a sexual assault can occur without producing any physical evidence and shared her findings with the rest of the jury.
"By conducting her own research and relaying that information to the rest of the jury, the foreperson engaged in misconduct," the order states. "Considering that this information is related directly to whether it was possible that the victim was assaulted, there was a reasonable probability that the information affected the verdict."
District Attorney Bob Auer argued the evidence of Lockwood's guilt - including testimony by the victim - was overwhelming and that the verdict should stand despite the misconduct.
Justices Michael Cherry and Nancy Saitta said the juror's actions required them to throw out the conviction and order a new trial in the case.
Justice Mark Gibbons disagreed, saying he would uphold the district court order denying Lockwood a new trial.
"Considering that the jury had already heard testimony that 75 to 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases reveal no evidence of abuse, the evidence introduced by the foreperson was cumulative and Lockwood failed to demonstrate that it had a reasonable probability of affecting the verdict," he wrote.
Lockwood, 31, remains in prison. He has the right to ask for release on bail pending a new trial but it would be up to the district judge to decide whether to grant him release.