Questions remain after gavel strikes
The jury foreperson in the Rudolph Edwards trial said that a majority of the jurors believed Edwards had committed a sexual assault, but did not convict him because they did not believe he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Catrina Miiller was the jury foreperson in the Edwards trial, which concluded Friday when the jury returned a verdict of not guilty to a charge of sexual assault in the third degree. The jury asked Judge Joel Yates if it could make a formal statement about its verdict in court, and Yates wrote back to the jury saying that it could not, but that the jurors were free to talk about the case afterward.
Miiller said that some of the jurors wanted to make a formal statement declaring their belief that Edwards was guilty but not beyond a reasonable doubt. She said some jurors were uncomfortable giving the impression that they found Edwards innocent.
She said she lost sleep during the trial and that it has been difficult for her and the other jurors to stop thinking about the case.
“We still believe we voted the way we were required to based on the evidence, but we’re struggling with the thought that a sexual assault occurred,” she said.
Miiller said the jury was initially split fairly evenly between jurors who thought Edwards was guilty and those who thought he was not guilty. By the end of the jury’s deliberations Friday afternoon, she said a majority of the jurors thought Edwards had committed a sexual assault but there was enough doubt in their minds that they could not convict him.
One of the issues that puzzled the jury was the lack of DNA evidence presented at the trial. The jury had access to a doctor’s report from Dr. Cheng Huang, who examined Medrano on July 17, 2011. The alleged sexual assault occurred the evening of July 16, 2011.
Miiller said the doctor’s report did not contain much information and it did not say anything about the presence of Edwards’s DNA on Medrano. She said that because the report lacked any information about DNA, some of the jurors disregarded it.
On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the day the trial began, the prosecution and defense agreed to a stipulation that they would not mention any DNA testing. The stipulation stated that the prosecution did not intend to introduce DNA evidence and that witnesses should be advised not to mention DNA testing.
According to court documents, Washington County Investigator Chad Ellis sent a sexual assault kit to the Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) lab. Washington County Attorney Larry Brock said the sexual assault kit contained the underwear Medrano wore to the Washington County Hospital when he was examined July 17, 2011. The sexual assault kit found Edwards’s DNA.
Ellis received the results of the sexual assault kit on Oct. 13, 2011. That same day, he attempted to obtain a buccal swab (taken from inside the cheek) from Edwards for DNA analysis to send to the DCI lab. Edwards declined his request.
On Oct. 14, 2011, Brock filed an application for buccal swab testing on Edwards, but on Nov. 10, 2011, he withdrew that application.
In an interview Wednesday, Brock said that he canceled the court order for a buccal swab because by then he had seen Edwards’s interrogation from July 17, 2011, in which Edwards admitted to having anal sex with Medrano.
Brock said that even though the DCI lab matched the DNA on Medrano’s underwear with the sample of Edwards’s DNA the lab had on file, that cannot be used in a court of law. Nevertheless, Brock said he did not think it was necessary to perform the buccal swab test to obtain Edwards’s DNA because he thought the interrogation video provided the necessary evidence to establish there were sex acts between Edwards and Medrano.
“There was no question as to identity, so the issue for DNA identification was never a part of it,” Brock said. “He (Edwards) never denied the sexual relationship, so there’s simply no need for it.”
The list of witnesses the state produced included Mike Noel, a registered nurse at the Washington County Hospital who collected evidence for the sexual assault kit. Brock said Noel was not called to testify because the two sides agreed not to mention DNA testing and because Noel did not have anything to add that was not already testified to by Huang in his deposition.
Miiller said that the jury had doubts about Edwards’s interrogation. Edwards said in his interrogation that he had sex with Medrano but that the sex was consensual.
“Most of us did not believe he (Edwards) was being truthful during the interrogation,” she said. “I would say a couple of people believed Edwards and a couple people did not. We felt there wasn’t concrete evidence. You’re trusting your ability to read body language. We didn’t feel that Edwards said anything. We felt that Ellis asked questions and then Edwards agreed to them. He didn’t say anything.”
Miiller said that most jurors thought that Medrano was telling the truth through most of his testimony. However, she said the jury did not feel that some of the specific incidents of sexual assault he spoke of were supported by Dr. Huang’s note.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Powell argued in his closing remarks that Medrano could have invented the story of the rape in order to obtain a U Visa. A U Visa is a visa for undocumented immigrants who are crime victims. Miiller said some jurors found the idea of the U Visa to be powerful reason to doubt Medrano’s testimony.
Medrano’s civil attorney, Nicole Merrill of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CASA), said in an interview Wednesday that Medrano is still attempting to obtain a U Visa. The fact that his alleged attacker was found not guilty does not prevent him from obtaining such a visa, she said.
Merrill said there is no telling how long Medrano will wait to hear whether he has obtained a U Visa or not. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates on its Web site that there is a nationwide cap on U Visas at 10,000 per year. The Web site indicates that the cap has been reached the past three fiscal years.