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Judge reverses conviction citing prosecution's error

Cases involving accusations of sexual assault or rape are serious and should be thoroughly investigated for the sake of both the alleged victim and the accused. Criminal convictions in sex crimes cases often result in an individual being subject to harsh penalties including spending time behind bars and mandatory registration as a sexual offender. These penalties can severely damage an individual’s personal relationships and professional aspirations.

The case of former college basketball player, Darrell Williams, recently made headlines when the appellate judge overseeing his appeal reversed his conviction after learning jurors made several visits to the place where the incident was reported to have taken place.

In a 2010 trial, Williams was accused of groping two women at a party near campus. Williams' first trial resulted in a guilty conviction and he was sentenced to serve one year probation and to register as a sex offender. As a result of his conviction, the young basketball star was also unable to continue his promising collegiate basketball career.

From the time of his arrest, Williams proclaimed his innocence, insisting the women mistakenly identified him as committing the crimes. An important factor in the case was the lighting at the alleged crime scene and whether the women would have been able to visually identify the individual they claim sexually assaulted them.

Williams appealed the lower court's decision and a new jury trial was underway until the presiding appellate judge recently reversed Williams' conviction. The judge's decision came after learning that prosecutors allowed jurors to visit the scene where the crimes supposedly occurred to examine lighting conditions.

Upon reversing Williams' conviction, the judge reasoned that questions related to the lighting conditions were deemed as being “crucial to the state’s claim that Williams was the perpetrator” and to proving whether or not the women would have been able to see well enough to identify the individual who carried out the sexual assaults.

The judge commented that the prosecution erred in allowing jurors to both visit and discuss the lighting conditions. Williams' defense attorney expressed his hopes that the whole ordeal is over for this 24-year-old client who is eager to get on with his life and pursue his dreams of one day playing professional basketball.

Source: The Oklahoman, "Former Oklahoma State University basketball player Darrell Williams' conviction overturned," Nolan Clay, April 23, 2014

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