Jury hears closingsVerdict may come as early as this afternoon
The prosecution and defense delivered their closing arguments Thursday morning in the trial of Rudolph Edwards, accused of third degree sexual assault.
Washington County Attorney Larry Brock, representing the prosecution, said there is no doubt that Edwards committed a sex act against Martin Medrano Vargas while the two were in the Washington County Jail on July 16, 2011. Brock said Edwards admitted to performing sex acts on Medrano in his video-taped interrogation with Washington County Investigator Chad Ellis in the early morning of July 17, 2011.
The only issue left to resolve, Brock said, was whether the sex acts were performed against the victim’s will.
Medrano testified that he did not consent to the sex acts and that he told Edwards to stop them. Medrano described being forced into oral and anal sex with Edwards. Edwards admitted to those acts during his interrogation with Ellis, but claimed they were consensual.
Brock said Medrano’s testimony clearly showed that the acts were coerced. Medrano testified that Edwards pushed him down to perform an act, and in a separate occasion Edwards got on top of Medrano. Medrano testified that Edwards also pushed his head into a toilet.
Medrano testified that Edwards grabbed him around the collar. Brock said this left an abrasion that Washington County Jailer Angelica Hernandez photographed and which was shown to the jury.
Brock argued that Medrano’s behavior was noticeably different after the incident, which is inconsistent with him consenting to the acts. Henry County Jailer Jean Lawler testified that when Medrano returned to the Henry County Jail, he was depressed and didn’t eat. Medrano also reported seeing hallucinations of blood in his drink, his food and on the walls.
“Why would he feel this way if the sex was consensual?” Brock asked.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Powell said that Medrano has not told a consistent story of the incident. He said that Medrano’s testimony about oral sex was the first time anyone investigating the case had heard that part of the incident.
When Medrano was returned to Henry County in September 2011, he told the jail staff that he remembered more about the incident. A doctor examined Medrano but found found no evidence of sexual assault. When Ellis learned of the medical report’s negative result, he did not do a follow-up interview with Medrano.
“If the state’s witnesses don’t even believe him, how in the world can you?” Powell asked the jury.
Powell referred to another prosecution witness, Dr. Chung W. Huang, who examined Medrano on July 17, 2011 in the Washington County Hospital and Clinics. Huang, who did not testify in person in front of the jury but at an earlier time with the attorneys present, said that he could not see a major injury on Medrano, and that there was nothing on him that indicated a sexual assault had occurred.
In court, Medrano said that he screamed to Edwards to stop the sex acts. Powell said this was doubtful considering that neither of the two other inmates in the pod said they heard anything and that another witness testified there is a noticeable echo in the jail cells.
“It’s virtually impossible that Medrano yelled,” he said. “That’s not a detail. It’s a change in the story.”
Powell said that the prosecution wants the jury to believe Medrano spoke little English to make it seem as if he did not know what was happening. Powell said the video from the pod shows Medrano and Edwards sitting at the picnic table across from one another for 90 minutes to two hours.
Powell said that Medrano has shown he is willing to lie in order to remain in the United States. He said that, in order to obtain a job, Medrano worked under the name Tony Jimenez.
Powell said that Medrano could be manufacturing the story in order to obtain a U Visa, which is given to undocumented immigrants who are crime victims and which allows them to remain in the country legally for four years.
“Is it possible he knew about the U Visa before the allegations?” Powell asked.
Powell said that Ellis found nothing on the pod videocamera tapes that contradicted Edwards’s version of events.
Brock then gave a rebuttal. He said it was apparent from his testimony that Medrano was a soft talker, and that even when Brock asked him specifically to yell that it was as loud as how Brock normally talks.
Brock denied that Medrano changed his testimony. He said that the details he revealed in later interviews were on matters he was never asked about before. He said Medrano always maintained that Edwards violated him twice.
“That story has never changed,” Brock said.
Brock said the sexual assault was traumatic to Medrano and that Medrano could not be expected to remember all of the details a few hours after it happened.
He said that the evidence from the videotapes is consistent with Medrano’s version of events. He said that the bruise on Medrano’s neck was consistent with his allegation that Edwards grabbed him around the collar.
Brock said that photographs showed there was a wet paper towel placed over Medrano’s intercom system in his room. Medrano testified that Edwards put it there.
“Why would Edwards place a paper towel over the intercom if the acts were consensual?” Brock asked.
Brock said it was highly unlikely that Medrano made up the sexual assault allegation in order to get a U Visa. He said Medrano has only a sixth-grade education, with no formal instruction in English, and that his whole adult life he has worked as a field hand and at chicken farms.
There was no evidence offered indicating Medrano knew what a U Visa was at the time of the incident. Brock said it is far-fetched to think Medrano allowed himself to be violated by a man in jail in order to obtain a U Visa.