Topeka The Kansas Supreme Court today affirmed the conviction and sentence of a man imprisoned for raping an 11-year-old girl in Lawrence.
Eric Ochs was sentenced to life in prison with an eligibility of parole after 25 years in the 2009 rape. He was 21 at the time.
State v. Ochs ( .PDF )
In his appeal, Ochs argued that the closing statement in the trial by Douglas County prosecutor Amy McGowan constituted misconduct.
In that statement, McGowan referred to the girl and said she was protected "and that protection she had was the truth."
Ochs' attorney argued McGowan's statement amounted to testimony by the prosecutor about the girl's testimony, and it also encouraged the jury to convict Ochs to protect the community. In closing arguments, prosecutors are generally confined to making comments on the evidence that was presented during the trial.
In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court agreed that McGowan's statement was out of bounds, but added that it didn't impact the verdict against Ochs.
"A prosecutor's closing argument that the victim witness was protected by the truth is error. But given the evidence against the defendant in this case, the error is not reversible," Chief Justice Lawton Nuss wrote.
Ochs was convicted in January 2010 of having sex with the 11-year-old on Feb. 6, 2009, at her North Lawrence home. Ochs was babysitting the girl and her siblings while her parents were out of town.