Advertisement

Archive for Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jury finds Pratt man not guilty

Physical evidence didn’t support prosecution’s case, attorney says

The 21-year-old Pratt man being charged in the rape of a KU freshman in 2008 is not guilty of the alleged crime. After four hours of deliberation, the jury ruled in the man's favor.

August 20, 2009, 1:11 p.m. Updated August 20, 2009, 5:15 p.m.

Advertisement

A Douglas County jury on Thursday acquitted a 21-year-old Pratt man of a charge that he raped a Kansas University student in March 2008.

“This was a case where the prosecution’s theory was not supported by any of the physical evidence in the case,” defense attorney Sarah Swain said after the verdict was read.

During two days of testimony, prosecutors accused him of entering a dorm room and having sex with an intoxicated female Kansas University student on March 9, 2008, at Gertrude Sellards Pearson Residence Hall.

Swain said the woman let the defendant sleep in bed with her that night and that he left the room after she asked him to get a condom. The defense said the woman, who was a KU freshman at the time, later changed her story because she didn’t want another man she was interested in to find out about the defendant, who was visiting friends in Lawrence that weekend who lived in the same dorm.

Jurors deliberated for more than four hours Thursday before finding the man not guilty of the rape charge.

Amy McGowan, a chief assistant Douglas County district attorney, during closing arguments Thursday morning told jurors the DNA evidence in the case supported the defendant getting interrupted while having sex with the female student. McGowan said two of her friends saw him having sex with her before they confronted him because they said she was unconscious.

But Swain argued that the physical evidence did not point to the defendant raping the female student because her clothes were not torn, she had no physical injuries and his DNA was not found on her clothing, in the sexual assault kit or in the room.

“Investigators only looked for evidence that supported her accusation. They didn’t interview witnesses that could have corroborated his version that it was a consensual encounter,” said Swain, who defended the man along with Jessica Travis.

McGowan and Mark Simpson, an assistant district attorney, prosecuted the case.

“This was a difficult case because there was not a lot of evidence besides the word of the parties involved,” District Attorney Charles Branson said in a statement. “However, there was enough corroborating evidence that the case needed to be heard and decided by a jury.”

The defendant was in Douglas County Sheriff’s custody during the trial. Swain said he now hopes to work to finish college.

The Journal-World generally does not identify sex crime suspects unless they are convicted.

Comments

imastinker 5 years, 5 months ago

I hope the prosecution has a better case than is presented here - or this is a very sick abuse of authority.

Rape is a very serious accusation that can be very difficult to prove. How does someone who is too drunk to stay conscious really remember what they did or didn't do that night?

wackobasher 5 years, 5 months ago

Although I tend to believe the victim deserves the benefit of the doubt, in this case it sure appears as if the very demonstrative ladies around the unfortunate situation were really the driver for the case even going to trial. No DNA, girls in the dorm had different stories, victim remembering different things as time went on all scream that this never should have gone to trial. Shame on you Douglas county prosecution.

Nonsense 5 years, 5 months ago

Oh for crying out loud. You complain that they don't try case and then you complain that they do. How about justice was served because a case was heard and a jury decided.

caec 5 years, 5 months ago

BTW Imastinker: someone who is drunk enough to lose consciousness is not legally able to form consent = rape. Kansas law allows for a rape charge when someone has been incapacitated by alcohol or drugs and the defendant was aware of that or it was reasonably apparent to them.

K_dub 5 years, 5 months ago

How can the defendant claim it was consensual when the woman was unconscience and was unable to consent.

I was always under the impression that if your partner is unconscience or too drunk [or whatever] to make a decision, then it was considered rape.

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

"How can the defendant claim it was consensual when the woman was unconscience and was unable to consent."

By claiming that she was not unconscious, it seems.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years, 5 months ago

They never had a case. I understand the alleged victim's need for justice/closure, but they really should have warned her that this was a long shot.

verity 5 years, 5 months ago

"his DNA was not found on her clothing, in the sexual assault kit or in the room"

Question for someone who knows the law. Doesn't this mean there was no intercourse and if so does there have to be intercourse for a rape to occur?

imastinker 5 years, 5 months ago

Getting drunk and the lowered inhibitions that occur are a personal choice. How is he supposed to know how drunk she is? Should he be giving breathalizers to anybody he wants to have sex with?

No dirty jokes off that last question - OK?

Sigmund 5 years, 5 months ago

verity (Anonymous) says…“his DNA was not found on her clothing, in the sexual assault kit or in the room” Question for someone who knows the law. Doesn't this mean there was no intercourse and if so does there have to be intercourse for a rape to occur?"

Rape doesn't require DNA to be present and the presence of DNA doesn't mean it was or wasn't rape.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 5 months ago

A very iffy case to go to trial with, from the sounds of it. As one female writer wrote (forgot name) "A bad decision at night is not rape the next morning".

somebodynew 5 years, 5 months ago

@Sigmund - thank you. I was going to say that also. Plus, if what I remember reading earlier, the alleged "act" was interupted which could effect if DNA could be found.

@srj - while I totally agree with that sentiment you would be surprized to see how many reports are like that. NOT saying this was one, just that they do occur.

Jimo 5 years, 5 months ago

“However, there was enough corroborating evidence that the case needed to be heard and decided by a jury.”

That's outrageous. The corroborating evidence if full of holes per this article. While the law does not directly prohibit rape convictions based solely upon one person's allegation, the voters need to remember in the next election that the DA is apparently incapable of avoiding the waste of the taxpayers dollars because he's unwilling to explain to complainants the evidentiary limitations of the judicial system.

One does play Russian roulette with a person's life and then dismiss the gravity of the situation by claiming 'no harm no foul.'

(But then again we live in a country with 2 Supreme Court Justices who don't believe that actual innocence must always rebut a death penalty sentence.)

BlackVelvet 5 years, 5 months ago

Jimo, had this victim been your sister/wife/girlfriend/other, and given the evidence the DA had (witness accounts) would you prefer they said "we can't do anything for you" or would you prefer they try, because apparently they beleved what the witnesses said they saw? Personally, I applaud the DA for going ahead with this. Often times in a rape case, it's a matter of he said/she said and there is no physical evidence to corroborate either side. Sometimes the DA has to decide whose story they believe. It's not always cut and dried.

afraidnot 5 years, 5 months ago

MichaelJ, what if this defendant had been your brother/husband/boyfriend/other? The past two years of his life have been totally ruined by these accusations that were never supported by any evidence. I think it is terrifying that any girl at any time can ruin any guys life simply by making an accusation. As a woman, I have the ridiculous power to call up the police, make a baseless accusation, have a man arrested, force him to pay thousands of dollars at the very least on bond and first appearances, and (what is really scary), in a case like this, make it all the way through trial before he gets his life back.

Victor Dawson 5 years, 5 months ago

MichaelJ- I am with you on this one. The DA has to move on the evidence and matters of law. He did the right thing by allowing this to be decided by a jury. People don't have to like it, but it is our legal system. I don't really care about the "what if" argument, because it isn't my sister or brother and there is no way that has legal standing anyway. I think we need to be really careful about articles as this, because you don't get all the information to actually base an accurate picture of what actually happened that evening. I hope that the young man and young woman involved in this case learned to exercise better judgment in the future. Allegations of rape and sexual assault are serious matters and should be taken as such. If there is a good thing out of this, hopefully, is that the justice system got to run its course because the DA's office proceeded and Ms. Swain did her job of defending her client.

Jimo 5 years, 5 months ago

MichaelJ - The DA does not work just for me, or a girlfriend, or a sister or for that matter even all victims but rather works for all. He has a budget. Every dime he wastes on a case guaranteed to fail is a dime that cannot be put toward justice. How would you feel if the DA now told you that the case where you're the victim cannot go forward because there's no budget (or more likely blamed the taxpayers for not giving him a bigger budget).

I remember a situation about 2 decades ago out in W. Kansas where some guy got elected DA under a promise to prosecute every single case that came before him. He was the subject of a recall effort 2 years later after dubious cases like this were being pushed right and left and he'd used up his entire budget.

What would I prefer? That the DA was honest and direct and explained: no evidence, no conviction.

It is unethical to bring a rape case where there is no evidence - Not "not a lot of evidence" -- no evidence. This is how innocent people end up in prison.

woodenfleaeater 5 years, 5 months ago

Time to recline, grab a drink, and just watch for awhile.

KansasVoter 5 years, 5 months ago

K_dub (Anonymous) says… "How can the defendant claim it was consensual when the woman was unconscience and was unable to consent. I was always under the impression that if your partner is unconscience or too drunk [or whatever] to make a decision, then it was considered rape."

LOL @ unconscience.

BlackVelvet 5 years, 5 months ago

no suspect DNA on victim's clothes doesn't mean "no evidence." I seem to recall more than one witness claiming to see the defendant on top of the unconscious (and nude from the waist down) victim, "thrusting". What is the motivation for the two females to say she was nude and unconscious if she was not?

formerLtowny 5 years, 5 months ago

Wow! Now this poor Pratt guy is going to have to go through life w/ everyone wondering if he is a rapist all bc a amatuer freshy couldn't handle her booze. Even her friends couldn't pin point the real truth. Thanx girlz for huge leap forward for woman kind!

wackobasher 5 years, 5 months ago

According to the testimony of the victim she was a hard sleeper and was not drunk. In fact she said she ran up four flights of stairs and she dressed herself according to her room mate. If she had been unconscious and had said that it may have been a better case. But she didn't, the two ladies that drove the accusation were the ones who said she was to drunk to consent. Her room mate said she was not "as drunk as she had seen her". Pictures also showed she had more than a minor acquaintance with the defendant. Keep in mind he was not convicted of "attempted rape" either, which was an option the jury had. That means the jury believed this was consensual. The DA made a mistake on this one.

daddax98 5 years, 5 months ago

"Every dime he wastes on a case guaranteed to fail is a dime that cannot be put toward justice"

why is this outcome not "justice"

afraidnot 5 years, 5 months ago

What is "just" about this outcome? The "victim" looks like a dramatic, drunk girl who made a bad decision and ruined a guys life in the process. The prosecution wasted tax payers money on a case that never should have gone to trial. The defendant was found not guilty, but at what cost? He spent the last 2 yrs of his life as an accused rapist. Does anyone ever actually recover from that? I don't know of a better system, but I would hardly say there was any "justice" in this outcome.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.