Sam Ukwuachu has sexual assault conviction reinstated by higher appeals court


Former Baylor soccer participant Samuel Ukwuachu will return to being a convicted intercourse offender — for now — after the Texas Court docket of Legal Appeals dominated Wednesday decrease appeals courtroom erred final 12 months when it overturned Ukwuachu’s conviction based mostly on sure textual content messages not allowed into proof in his trial.

The judges’ unanimous 9-Zero resolution acknowledged that the trial courtroom didn’t abuse its discretion when it didn’t enable into proof textual content messages the girl despatched to her pal whereas the girl and Ukwuachu have been touring to his house on the evening of the reported assault. In a concurring opinion, judges wrote that the exclusion of the messages was “harmless” to Ukwuachu’s case.

In March 2017, Waco’s 10th Court docket of Appeals dominated to overturn Ukwuachu’s conviction and provides him a brand new trial. The three-judge panel decided that the trial courtroom ought to have allowed into proof the collection of textual content messages between the girl and a pal of hers despatched instantly earlier than the reported assault in October 2013. They wrote that the textual content messages involved previous sexual conduct between the girl and Ukwuachu, which he had stated indicated her consent to have intercourse.

Ukwuachu’s conviction in August 2015 of getting sexually assaulted a feminine Baylor soccer participant was, in some ways, the place to begin for the collection of public revelations about sexual violence at Baylor College.

The previous defensive finish had been sentenced to 180 days in jail, 10 years’ felony probation and 400 hours of neighborhood service, and he needed to register as a intercourse offender. McLennan County prosecutors appealed the choice to overturn the conviction to the Texas Court docket of Legal Appeals, which agreed in September 2017 to listen to that petition. The courtroom dominated Wednesday within the state’s favor. Had it upheld the decrease courtroom’s ruling, Ukwuachu would have been entitled to a brand new trial.

Ukwuachu’s lawyer William A. Bratton stated Wednesday that he thought the Texas Court docket of Legal Appeals took a really slender view of the decrease appeals courtroom’s ruling in making its resolution, and he stated it wasn’t the judges’ position to make choices on how the jury would interpret proof.

“When judges start saying, ‘Well, but juries would look at it this way,’ they’re just guessing … the way to do it is to give them the evidence and let them sort through it.”

He stated that the ruling was disappointing however that “we still have a fight left.”

In his preliminary attraction, Bratton had argued six points. The decrease appeals courtroom had dominated on the textual content messages and dominated out one argument regarding the preliminary indictment, nevertheless it didn’t rule on the 4 different points. A type of was an allegation of improper use of Ukwuachu’s roommate’s cellphone information to discredit the roommate’s testimony that he was house on the time of the reported assault. In Wednesday’s ruling by the Texas Court docket of Legal Appeals, the judges wrote that they have been sending the case again to the decrease appeals courtroom for additional proceedings on these different points.

The girl’s lawyer, John Clune, stated in a textual content message Wednesday that, “This is a great ruling, but truthfully is the only outcome that seemed consistent with Texas law. We realize the appeal process isn’t over, but this is an important victory for crime victims and brings Mr. Ukwuachu one step closer to justice.”

The girl, who misplaced her soccer scholarship at Baylor within the wake of the reported assault, reached a monetary settlement with the college in December 2015 and transferred to a different college.

Ukwuachu’s prison conviction, which got here after a college investigation had cleared him of any wrongdoing, garnered intense media consideration and public scrutiny, and prompted Baylor to conduct an inner assessment of its Title IX practices as extra ladies got here ahead with experiences of assaults by athletes.

In Might 2016, the college fired soccer coach Artwork Briles and demoted former president Kenneth Starr, who would later resign, as would the college’s suspended athletic director, Ian McCaw. There would even be a string of Title IX lawsuits, outdoors investigations and arrests of three different former soccer gamers on sexual assault prices.

Though the decrease appeals courtroom judges who initially overturned the conviction had decided that the messages didn’t stop Ukwuachu from presenting the substance of his protection, they wrote that as a result of the girl’s consent was the central difficulty for the jury, “we cannot say that we have a fair assurance that the erroneous exclusion of the text messages” didn’t have an effect on the jury’s resolution.

These judges wrote that the textual content messages have been a part of an “ongoing conversation” and that after prosecutors sought to introduce one of many messages, “the Rule of Optional Completeness allowed Ukwuachu to inquire into any other part of the same subject, which are the messages in question.” Through the trial, prosecutors have been allowed to introduce into proof a textual content message the girl despatched to her pal after the alleged assault that learn that Ukwuachu had “basically raped [her] .”

In Wednesday’s ruling by the Texas Court docket of Legal Appeals, the judges wrote that, “the court of appeals did not consider whether the excluded text messages, which were arguably not a part of the same text message conversation as the messages introduced by the state, were necessary to explain what had already been admitted into evidence.”

One concurring opinion, supported by three judges, additionally states that the textual content messages may have been excluded from proof underneath Texas’ rape-shield regulation that prohibits sure proof of a complainant’s previous sexual conduct from getting used at trial, which was additionally opposite to the decrease appeals courtroom ruling.

The concurring opinions launched Wednesday included a number of the textual content messages at difficulty that have been exchanged between the girl and her pal simply previous to the reported assault. In certainly one of them, her pal texts, “Okay be careful, wrap it up this time!!” to which the girl replies, “I’m not gunna do anytibg!!”

Baylor’s January 2014 Title IX investigation report, which the trial courtroom choose didn’t enable into proof within the prison trial, addressed that change as properly. In that report, the pal advised Baylor chief judicial affairs officer Bethany McCraw that textual content was in reference to the girl and Ukwuachu’s prior encounter wherein the girl was “freaking out because he ‘put it in’ a couple and he didn’t have a condom on” and that she needed to “forcefully push him off of her.” The pal advised McCaw the follow-up textual content was meant to learn, “I’m not going to do anything,” which means that the girl was “not going to have sex with him.”

In keeping with one of many concurring opinions issued Wednesday, the girl then texted her pal details about a celebration, adopted up with a textual content that learn, “He doesn’t wanna go,” to which her pal replied, “Because he wants to hit,” (a possible reference to intercourse, the choose wrote). The girl responds, “He’s not gunna!”

One other two judges, who agreed with the general ruling, had a barely completely different take, writing that, “there was at least some risk that if the jury interpreted the conversation as revealing past sexual conduct between [Ukwuachu] and the victim, the jury could discredit the victim’s testimony based upon moral disapproval of her behavior.” But if that constituted “unfair prejudice” the opinion acknowledged “then it is difficult to see how past sexual behavior … would ever be admissible to prove consent.” But on this case, the opinion acknowledged, the omission of proof was “harmless.”

“Though the central issue in the case was consent, the excluded evidence only tended to prove consent through an implication that [Ukwuachu] and the victim had consensual sex in the past. As such, it only weakly supported [Ukwuachu’s] defensive theory,” it acknowledged.

In reality, the opinion acknowledged, the actual textual content change could possibly be interpreted as to “reinforce the victim’s testimony that she had never had sex with [Ukwuachu] before and did not want to have sex with him on the day of the offense.”

Through the 2015 prison trial, the girl alleged that Ukwuachu had taken her to his house the place she tried to withstand his advances a number of instances earlier than he succeeded in forcing her on her abdomen, pushing her head up towards a wall and raping her from behind. Ukwuachu stated throughout the trial that he and the girl had consensual intercourse that night with him on prime and them mendacity face-to-face on his mattress, and that he by no means compelled himself on her.

The trial additionally included testimony from Ukwuachu’s former girlfriend at Boise State who stated that Ukwuachu, who performed soccer there earlier than transferring to Baylor, had been bodily violent along with her, having punched her greater than as soon as and choked her throughout an argument. Ukwuachu additionally denied these allegations, and his opposition to the usage of that testimony is one other one of many arguments now pending earlier than the 10th Court docket of Appeals.

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