It was not a matter of if, but when. The attorney for Matthew Lane Durham, the former teen missionary convicted of molesting children at a Kenyan orphanage, has filed an appeal of his conviction.
Durham's case gained national attention after the Edmond man, who was just 19 when the story broke, was accused of sexually abusing and raping seven children--six girls and one boy--while serving as a missionary at the Upendo Children's Center in Nairobi, Kenya. The media reported that Durham confessed to sexually abusing the children, sending text messages to a friend saying that he had a "demon" inside him named "Luke," and that "every night luke gets what luke wants" [sic].
From the beginning, Durham's attorney asserted that his client was innocent, saying that the founder of the orphanage, Eunice Menja, used unlawful techniques to coerce a false confession from the teen: "confiscating his passport, false imprisonment, keeping food from him one day, delay in allowing him to depart from the country, misleading his parents."
Ultimately, Durham was convicted of seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. However, during a review of the case, in which the defense asked for a new trial amid concerns over prosecutorial misconduct, a federal judge threw out three of the convictions, citing insufficient evidence to support them.
The defense had requested a new trial after the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office reported possible misconduct by a federal prosecutor. The prosecutor failed to disclose that a local pediatrician made statements that directly contradicted the medical opinion of a Kenyan doctor who testified that the girls sustained internal injuries as a result of sexual abuse, and that such injuries were still visible up to six weeks after the alleged assaults. The local pediatrician asserted that the presence of internal injuries would be unlikely from sexual assault without the use of an instrument, which was not alleged in the case. In the rare event that there were internal injuries from non-instrumental sexual abuse, they would not be present after six weeks.
The judge ruled that the withholding of medical evidence by the prosecutor was unlikely to have had an impact on Durham's case, as the jury heard from a defense expert that also refuted the Kenyan doctor's claims.
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Judge sentenced Durham to 40 years in prison.
On Monday, Durham's attorney filed an appeal, saying, "There was a mistake made here, a tragic mistake. Matthew Durham did not do what he was accused of doing. But, it will take a little bit longer to clear him."
Whether or not Durham is guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted remains to be seen. What does seem clear is that there are several notable concerns over the man's investigation, confession, and prosecution.