Edwards found not guilty
Rudolph Edwards, 42, was found not guilty of third-degree sexual assault Friday afternoon. The 12-member jury returned its verdict after deliberating for more than a day.
Edwards’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Powell, said simply, “We’re pleased with the jury’s verdict. That’s all.”
Edwards was accused of committing a class “C” felony, which carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The jury heard closing arguments from the defense and prosecution Thursday morning, and went into deliberation just before 10:30 a.m. The jury deliberated until about 4:30 that afternoon. Unable to reach a consensus, the jury went home and returned the next day, when it finally reached its verdict slightly before 3 p.m.
The law requires the verdict be unanimous. When the jurors were asked individually if they agreed with the not guilty verdict, all of them said yes, but one woman was visibly weeping when she gave her answer.
Edwards was returned to the Washington County Jail after the verdict and he will be returned to the Anamosa State Penitentiary as soon as possible. Edwards is serving a five-year sentence there for committing willful injury.
Martin Medrano Vargas, Edwards’ alleged victim in the case, was also returned to the Washington County Jail after hearing the verdict. Medrano had been at the jail since late October when he was transferred there from the Hardin County Jail because he was a material witness in the case against Edwards.
Edwards was accused of committing sexual assault against Medrano when the two were inmates in the Washington County Jail on July 16, 2011. Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar said that when Medrano and Edwards were returned to the jail in preparation for Edwards’s trial, they were kept in separate sections of the jail so they would not see each other.
Medrano will now be returned to the Hardin County Jail, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will resume custody of him. Medrano is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He was scheduled to have a deportation hearing in November 2012 but that hearing was canceled.
Medrano is attempting to obtain a U Visa which will allow him to stay in the country as a legal resident for up to four years. The U Visa applies to undocumented immigrants who are victims of certain crimes and who also cooperate with law enforcement in investigating the crime.
Medrano’s civil attorney Nicole Cooper-Merrill has previously stated in interviews with The Journal that an immigrant can obtain a U Visa even if the alleged attacker is found not guilty.
Testimony in the trial began Tuesday afternoon and concluded Wednesday afternoon. Medrano testified at the trial but Edwards did not. The jury did watch a video-taped interrogation of Edwards taken a few hours after the alleged sexual assault took place.
In the interrogation, Edwards said he and Medrano had sex but insisted that it was consensual. Edwards said he believed he was “set up” and offered to pay for a lie detector test for both himself and Medrano.
The defense argued that Medrano was not telling a consistent story about the sexual assault, and that it was conceivable that Medrano consented to the sex with Edwards.
Jailers who had contact with Medrano at the Washington County Jail and the Henry County Jail testified that Medrano did not want to eat after he reported being sexually assaulted July 16, 2011. Defense witness and Henry County Jailer Jean Lawler testified that she observed Medrano put a sheet over his head, and that he told her this was because he kept seeing his attacker’s face. The defense argued that Medrano could have been worried about being deported.
Powell said in his closing arguments that it was possible Medrano was aware of the U Visa and that he was fabricating the story in order to remain in the country legally. Washington County Attorney Larry Brock said there was no evidence presented showing Medrano knew anything about the U Visa and added that it was irrational to think Medrano would allow Edwards to violate him for a visa. Medrano testified that he obtained a sixth-grade education in Mexico, received no formal training in English and that he has worked as a field hand and on chicken farms since arriving in the United States in 2001.