Archive for Friday, March 25, 2011

New trial ordered for former church youth leader convicted of having relationship with underage girl

March 25, 2011


— A former Lawrence church youth leader, who was convicted for having a sexual relationship with an underage girl who was in the youth group, will get a new trial under a ruling Friday by the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Christopher Cormack will be tried again within the next three months, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said.

“It is our intent to re-try the case,” Branson said.

Cormack was convicted in 2008 of one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He was sentenced to 59 months in prison, but has been free on an appeal bond.

The girl testified that she had had a sexual relationship with Cormack, who was her youth ministry coordinator at Trinity Lutheran, for more than two years beginning in 1999 when she was 15 and he was 28.

Under state law, aggravated indecent liberties with a child is engaging in “sexual intercourse with a child who is 14 or more years but less than 16 years of age.”

Cormack admitted he had sexual intercourse with the girl on multiple occasions, but said all the acts occurred after she was 16.

The victim did not come forward until 2007 when she heard Cormack was returning to Kansas to take a position as a pastor after he attended seminary in California. She contacted police.

The dispute before the three-member panel of the Court of Appeals centered on jury instructions during the trial before District Court Judge Robert Fairchild.

“In this case, there was a real possibility of jury confusion as to which specific instance Cormack may have had sexual intercourse with (her) when she was still 15 years old,” the court said.

The appeals panel said the jury must unanimously agree on the specific incidence of intercourse and when it happened to reach a verdict.

It is up to the judge to make that instruction, and he didn’t. “The district court’s failure to instruct was clearly erroneous,” the appeals panel said.

The appeals panel dismissed numerous other appeals claims made by Cormack.


Jimo 7 years, 2 months ago

Why wouldn't you require a jury to make a finding of fact as to when this crime occurred? If a jury doesn't, isn't there a question as to whether they've actually found any specific guilt rather than announcing guilt for "something" as a means to hide actual disagreement over what exactly that "something" is? In fact, isn't the risk of this question demonstrated sharply under these facts: a particularly controversial crime combined with the passage of a decade that would lessen any defendant's ability to present an adequate defense? (This is exactly why most crimes have a statute of limitations: it's difficult to undermine claims of what happened long ago just as it's difficult to have confidence that a conviction based on ancient claims is really being made on all the evidence and not just whatever evidence happened to survive a decade.)

If fact, if new evidence came to light post-conviction that proved that the defendant could not possibly have committed this crime on Date X, what would that get him, as the jury never specifically found he committed the crime on any exact date?

If the jury really doesn't agree on the facts then the guy has to walk free. After all, the court exists to protect the wrongfully accused from (quasi)convictions lacking findings of fact necessary to support that judgment. Not to convict probably scummy people for probably having done scummy things.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 2 months ago

".....a particularly controversial crime combined with the passage of a decade...."

The woman brought it to authorities in 2008 prior to the statute of limitations running out. Kansas state law is such that the "clock" stopped at that point. Many victims of sex abuse by priests have used the same tactic to stop the legal "clock" by stating that they reported the abuse to a teacher, doctor or other mandatory reporter prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. If I recall correctly, in this case (I hope I'm not confusing it with another), there is also the fact that the girl reported it to the pastor (another mandatory reporter) at the time. What it comes down to is that no matter how much time has passed since it was reported it doesn't make any difference. The very act of reporting it stops the clock. There are states where the legal "clock" continues to tick even after reporting but I'm pretty sure that Kansas isn't among them. Either way, this is simply a technicality. He won a retrial and the court will retry it. It was still a situation where a trusted adult in a religious capacity took advantage of a person under the age of consent which places him pretty firmly in the "scumbag" category. This is no situation where an 18 year old boy boinked his 16 year old girlfriend. All that's being quibbled over now is the details and the splitting of fine hairs.

ebyrdstarr 7 years, 2 months ago

The statute of limitations clock does not stop running until charges are filed. A crime being reported to police does not satisfy the statute of limitations.

Also, I would disagree that making sure the jury is actually unanimous about what the defendant did is a technicality or splitting of fine hairs.

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

"Either way, this is simply a technicality. He won a retrial and the court will retry it. It was still a situation where a trusted adult in a religious capacity took advantage of a person under the age of consent which places him pretty firmly in the "scumbag" category."

Apparently, to cait48, whether or not he is actually guilty is just a technicality. She has already pronounced her own verdict.

greenworld 7 years, 2 months ago

I know the law is in place to protect any kids under the age of 16 but do you really think there is that much different between 15 and 16 as if she wakes up one day and turns 16 and is ready to have sex. The day before when she was 15 she wasnt ready? The matter of the fact is the law is the law and nobody can beat that. Also alot of times the kids are just in lust and dont have a clue what they are doing and the parents get wind of it and freak out and want to pursue charges. ITs pretty bizarre as a girl could consent to wanting to have sex at 16 and under and the law still protects them as innocent and not ready by legal age.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 2 months ago

Wait. I thought that belief in god made people behave morally. Hmm.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 2 months ago

No, you can sin, but if you confess, your in the clear. Which cracks me up because they are the people sure of God, and know right from wrong, and still sin anyway. Quoting Moral Orel (Adult Swim show) "Christianity sure is convenient".

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