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Judge Rejects Affidavit Recanting Rape Testimony

19-Jul-2013

A man convicted of raping his grandson in 2004 has suffered a setback in his appeal when an Oklahoma County District judge rejected an affidavit central to his claim of innocence.

Harold Lee Belton, 62, was convicted of raping Deveonte Lavon Johnson, now 20, when the boy was 9 years old. Much of the prosecution was centered on the testimony of the young boy, but Johnson now recants his testimony. Johnson's signed affidavit is central to Belton's appeal with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, but Oklahoma County District Judge Donald Deason rejected the affidavit last week.

The problem with the affidavit is that Belton admits he wrote it himself, then sent it to his brother-in-law to be signed by Johnson. According to Judge Deason, Belton implied that his grandson wrote the affidavit himself and mailed it to Belton unexpectedly.

In his order denying post-conviction relief to Belton, Judge Deason wrote, “This court finds that there is a high probability that Petitioner is attempting to perpetrate a fraud upon this court.” He continued, “Given all the circumstances, this court finds the statements are highly suspect and lacking in credibility, particularly given that the Petitioner drafted the affidavit and the circumstances that led to Deveonte Johnson signing the affidavit.”

In late 2004, a preteen Johnson testified that Belton, his grandfather, had sexually assaulted him over a five month period in 2001 and 2002. He testified climbed onto a top bunk bed while he slept and raped him. Johnson's testimony was key in Belton's conviction, as there was not physical evidence connecting him to a sexual assault and there were no witnesses to the alleged rapes. In fact, Johnson's brothers were asleep on the bottom bunk when the assaults are to have occurred, yet they were not awakened.

Johnson's affidavit mentions that when he turned 18 he began to question what happened, saying he did not recall his testimony, but that he had never been raped.

If the content of the affidavit is true, and Johnson truly recants any testimony that convicted his grandfather, it is unfortunate for Belton that he chose to intimate that the young man wrote the affidavit without prompting. Because Judge Deason believes that Belton tried to dupe the court, his appeal is rejected.

Filing an appeal is a complex procedure, and attempting to circumvent the process in order to move things along is not a good idea. Work closely with an experienced appellate lawyer and act according to his or her counsel to avoid making mistakes that will jeopardize your appeal. For more information on criminal appeals in Oklahoma, call 405-778-4800 or submit the confidential case review form found on the Oklahoma Legal Group website.



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