An unscripted jury found that even during a mock trial, a rape case isn’t always easily decided.
“It’s very rare these cases are open and shut,” said York County’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Ben Hahn.
Hahn played the judge in a sexual assault mock trial play put on by the York County’s Victim-Witness Assistance Program and the Center for Sexual Assault Survivors yesterday. April is sexual assault awareness month and the trial was put on at the York County Courthouse.
The idea for the trial came from center director Shawna Gray, who shared it with program director Carol Wilson. Gray said the trial was just another means to let people know that both groups offer help to victims.
“One in four people who are sexually assaulted report it,” she said before the trial started. “Last year our groups helped 200 victims, but we know there are more out there who need help.”
The scripted trial took place in front of about 25 people, most of whom were employees of the two advocacy groups. This was their first mock trial, but they hope to have more citizens in attendance next year, said Gray.
Eight of the 25 audience members were randomly selected to serve as the jury, who had to decide the case based on what they heard – without a script.
The case was based loosely on a sexual assault mock trial script from The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Dr. Jared Presley pleaded not guilty to raping Becca Stanton. Presley was played by Carlos Acevedo and Becca Stanton was played by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Krystyn Reid. The prosecuting attorney, Alex Blake, was played by Wendy Jenkins, a center volunteer and Acevedo’s fiancée.
The two-hour trial started with opening remarks, like a normal trial, from both sides.
Blake said the defense would try to make Presley look innocent by making him out to be “an eligible bachelor [who] everyone wanted to be with.” She said the sex was never consensual. Stanton fell asleep after drinking and woke up with Presley on top of her, she said.
Defense attorney Chris Dallas, played by Gray, said Presley was “single and successful” and Stanton was just mad because Presley didn’t want a relationship. “He may not be a gentleman, but you can’t punish him for having a one-night stand,” she told the jury.
On the night in question Stanton, who’s a nurse, went to a bar in Norfolk to have a few drinks with a friend. Presley, who worked with Stanton at Norfolk Regional Hospital, was at the same bar with one of his friends. As the night went on the two groups hung out and drank heavily. Stanton and Presley stayed behind after their friends left separately.
Stanton was drunk. She testified that she’d spent all night drinking whatever the doctor, an anesthesiologist, put in front of her. “I didn’t want to be rude,” she told the court.
Presley said he was just having fun, and trying to help Stanton forget about an ex-boyfriend.
During cross examination Presley told the court Stanton kept drinking, so he bought more.
Stanton wanted to take a cab home, but Presley insisted on driving her. Stanton agreed, but when they arrived Stanton said Presley wanted to come in and use the bathroom. After Presley used the bathroom he talked Stanton into letting him staying on the couch, she said. “He said he didn’t want to get a DUI and lose his license,” testified Stanton.
Stanton testified she went to bed, but woke up about an hour later with Presley on top of her.
Presley testified he left around 8 a.m. after telling Stanton he didn’t want to see her again.
Stanton said Presley left around 2 a.m., just after she was raped.
In her closing argument Blake told the jury not to be fooled by the defense. “Dr. Presley knew what he was doing; he got [Stanton] drunk and raped her,” she said.
“It was a one-night stand,” Dallas, the defense attorney, countered as she closed. “Haven’t you ever been sexually attracted to someone when you were drinking?”
The jury deliberated for a while, but came out of their quarters deadlocked.
Hahn, or Judge Peters, gave the jury an Allen Charge, which meant they needed to go back and think more on the case to get a unanimous decision.
“Put aside any reservations and think of the facts of the case,” he said.
The jury came out of their quarters about five minutes later, still with no verdict. It was a 6-2 split, with six jurors who felt Presley was guilty.
The audience let out a “wow” in unison after finding the jury was undecided. Hahn declared a mistrial.
Hahn asked the jury to speak about their decisions, which wouldn’t happen in a real case, he said.
One juror said she decided Presley was guilty because a doctor should know the effect drinking has on judgment, and Presley shouldn’t have continued to give Stanton drinks. Most of the jurors agreed.
Another juror, who felt Presley wasn’t guilty, said she was cloudy on whether the sex was consensual. “They were flirting all night,” she said.