Sexual Assault Of A Child Trial Postponed On Jury Issue

Jacquel Torran O'Neal (Jail photo)
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GATESVILLE (February 11, 2014) A trial that began Monday for a Copperas Cove teenager accused of sexual assault of a child was halted after the judge in the case determined lawyers were unable to seat an impartial jury.

Jury selection began at 9 a.m. Monday for Jacquel Torran O'Neal, 18, who has been held in the Coryell County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $700,000 since his arrest on Aug. 9, 2012 in connection with the sexual abuse of his girlfriend's 7-month-old daughter.

But after a day-long selection process, lawyers had disqualified so many prospective jurors that enough didn’t remain to seat a proper panel.

The main issue revolved around whether jurors could consider a whole range of punishment for the defendant, should he be found guilty, which included the possibility of probation.

When a large number of the prospective jurors said they could not consider the entire range of punishment, the judge had no choice but to halt the process.

Now, at a later date, another panel will be called and both the prosecutor and the defense attorney will go through the process again to see if another jury can be seated.

O’Neal is accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend’s 7-month-old daughter.

His girlfriend, Diamond Leshawn Pender, 18, is also charged in the case.

On Aug. 4, 2012, Copperas Cove police were sent to an address in the 300 block of Pinto Drive in response to a report that an infant was bleeding from her vaginal area and that her mother "knew about the bleeding, but did not take the child to the hospital because she did not want to get the authorities involved," according to an arrest warrant.

Both Pender and O'Neal were arrested on Aug. 9, 2012 and booked into the Coryell County Jail..

The little girl was taken to Scott & White Hospital in Temple where an examination revealed severe vaginal bruising and tearing that required surgical repair, the affidavits say.

Doctors also found numerous bruises, a burn on the girl's abdomen, factures of both legs and three broken ribs, the affidavits say.

Pender told an investigator she wasn't aware of the injuries and didn't know how they occurred, the affidavits say.

O'Neal told the investigator he used his finger to enter the infant's vagina "to clean it out" while changing a diaper on Aug. 2, which was the likely cause of the bleeding, and said the burn was most likely caused by a cigarette that he was smoking near the girl, the affidavits say.

He said the infant frequently fell off a bed and said he thought that was the cause of her injuries, the affidavit said.

Two other children who lived in the home were interviewed at the Belton Child Advocacy Center and one, a then 10-year-old boy, said he saw O'Neal press on the infant's abdomen several times "until she pooped," the affidavit said.

He also said he saw O'Neal hold the infant by her ankles while she was screaming, hit her in the legs and scratch her with his fingernails, the affidavit said.

He also said Pender was present when the assaults occurred and said that the couple "would frequently argue about it."