A Court of Appeals has overturned the sexual assault conviction of former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu and sent the issue back to the district court for new trial.
Without getting too technical on the legal side, because you don’t care and I don’t care, let’s try to put this all in laymen’s terms.
Appeals lawyers for Ukwuachu successfully argued that cell phone evidence between Ukwuachu and the alleged victim was previously not allowed in court, but had it been, it would have painted a different picture between the two.
That being said, the exclusion of the text messages does not automatically result in a reversal of the conviction. The exclusion of the texts must have affected the outcome in the opinion of the court before they will reverse. In other words, if the exclusion of evidence is harmless, the court will not overturn the conviction. Here, the court found that the texts, if admitted, may have changed the result. Here is where all the other issues like the cell phone records and the grand jury issues came into play. This is what the court concluded:
The reference to the “other alleged errors” is legal code for “the evidence in support of the conviction was questionable and/or improperly admitted.”
Another big takeaway from this is a slight vindication for Baylor’s judicial affairs investigator Bethany McCraw. McCraw was crushed by the prosecutors for clearing Sam without sufficient evidence. But she cleared Sam Ukwuachu in large part based on the texts that were not permitted during the trial and that the court of appeals held to be a vital piece of evidence. Here is what McCraw said at trial:
As for the prosecution, McLennan County District Attorney Abelk Reyna released a statement on the order Thursday morning: “After reading the opinion of the 10th Court of Appeals and the 54th District Court record in this case, I have decided to request the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals review this matter further. We will continue the fight on behalf of our victim and her family. While I respect the 10th Court of Appeals, I disagree with their decision and reasoning in this case. I am extremely confident in the decisions made by our prosecutors and the rulings made by Judge Johnson in the trial of this case.”
Does this change the sentiment around everything that happened at Baylor? No it does not. But it is a win for Sam Ukwuachu and if he is in fact an innocent man, than he deserves the retrial.
Let’s not do the usual rush to judgment and actually see how this plays out from here. Deal?
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