Eagle County jury acquits teen boys in sex assault trial
EAGLE — A jury spent less than three hours to reach a not-guilty verdict in a juvenile sexual assault trial.
The two-week trial, the first juvenile trial in local memory, ended with the acquittal of two teenage boy’s New Year’s Eve party in 2015 which ended with a sexual encounter with a teenage girl.
Prosecutors built their case around the assertion that the teenage girl was too drunk to knowingly consent to sex. Prosecutor Kelsy Sargent told the jury the girl was “incapable of appraising the nature of her own conduct.”
Four hours after the party ended, the girl’s blood alcohol content was .238, according to testimony.
Defense attorneys Katheryn Stimson and Marci Gilligan-LaBranche argued that the girl’s drinking did not hit her completely until after the sexual encounter, and that she was in control of her own actions and decisions.
“In the United States of America, we are presumed innocent,” Stimson said during closing arguments. “You’d better believe this is important to these two teenage boys and their mom. This is the most important day of their lives.”
Stimson and Gilligan-LaBranche repeatedly stressed the high standard of “reasonable doubt” in criminal cases. They told jurors if they harbored reasonable doubt, then they must vote to acquit the boys.
Three hours later, the six-person jury had voted to do exactly that.
“If it makes a reasonable person hesitate, that’s reasonable doubt,” Stimson said. “The only way you could get to guilty is if this boy knew that that girl was incapable of understanding the nature of her conduct.”
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