Walter Pierce

Appeals court upholds Gross plea, sentence

by Walter Pierce

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal issued a ruling today upholding the conviction and sentence of Thornton Gross on felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and sexual battery charges for which he received a 15-year prison sentence (seven and a half years on each charge with sentences served consecutively). Gross entered a so-called Crosby plea to the charges in October of 2008, the same day he was sentenced. A Crosby plea allows a defendant the right to appeal.

The case stemmed from Gross’ trial and acquittal on a second-degree murder charge in connection with the brutal 2006 rape and beating death of 13-year-old Alexuia Feast; two other defendents were also charged in the case — one was convicted, the other pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge. In mounting his defense to the murder charge at trial, Gross denied participating in Feast’s killing, but in accounting for the presence of his DNA on her body and clothing, testified that he and the girl had consensual sex earlier on the same day she was murdered. After his acquittal and based on that testimony, the state filed the carnal knowledge and sexual battery charges against Gross.

Gross argued in his appeal that he faced double jeopardy by being tried a second time based on testimony from the first trial. The three-judge 3rd Circuit panel disagreed.