This week we were able to secure another jury trial win for one of our clients. He walked into court with us accused of First Degree Rape, and he walked out an innocent man.
This was an extremely important win for our office; the criminal allegations were filed as Youthful Offender (Y.O.) charges. Y.O. crimes are a subset of juvenile crimes. You can think of them as lying somewhere in between juvenile crimes and adult crimes.
There are certain criminal allegations that the Oklahoma Legislature decided to specify as eligible for adult punishment even when the defendant is younger that eighteen years of age. Individuals charged with these types of crimes are referred to as "Youthful Offenders" and are initially processed through the Oklahoma juvenile system.
However, youthful offender status allows the prosecution the ability to certify the minor for adult punishment if certain factors can be proven within a specified time frame. If a youthful offender is certified for adult punishment, then they will face the full punishment range of the crime they alleged committed, just as any other adult defendant would.
If the youthful offender is not certified for adult punishment, they can still be sentenced to prison in some circumstances, but will more often than not be placed in the the custody of the Oklahoma Office of Juveile Affairs (OJA). The youthful offender would then be given the ability to complete a course of treatment. If the offender successfully completes the treatment plan, then they can be discharged, at which time their record would be eligible for expungement.
However, if a youthful offender fails to complete the treatment program through their own fault, they can be "bridged" over to adult sentencing, at which time a district judge would be able to sentence the offender to prison time according to the judge's discretion and statutory directives.
This case was especially tricky, as it came down to my client's testimony versus the testimony of the alleged victim. As I have reiterated on many occasions, sex crimes are likely the most difficult crimes to defend, because they are the easiest allegations to make.
We often see allegations of rape, sexual battery, and lewd molestation move through the criminal justice system much more quickly than other types of crimes due to the nature of the criminal complaint. Rarely is there any evidence outside of testimony and witness statements, so there is often times little the defense can do to attack the evidence aside from skillful cross-examination.
That was exactly the case here, as the allegations centered around the account of a minor. This case was especially interesting though, as the alleged victim had written a note in her phone after the alleged rape, seemingly corroborating the allegations. To make matters worse for the defense, our client had a prior issue involving alleged deviant behavior.
Regardless, we were able to present a coherent account to the jury through careful cross-examination of the prosecution's witnesses. After three days, the jury retired to deliberate. They returned after approximately one hour of deliberations with a verdict of not guilty.