After five hours of deliberations, around 4:20 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, 2011, a jury found Aubrey Phillip Childers not guilty of sexual assault in the 32nd Judicial District Court.
The final day of the trial began with closing and final arguments starting around 9:30 a.m. Presiding judge Glen Harrison gave the charge to the court of sexual assault to the jury, which was made up of nine women and three men. Mr. Childers had been indicted on a male-on-male sexual assault that occurred around the southwest part of Sweetwater on or around August 15, 2010.
Assistant District Attorney Barrett Thomas offered his closing argument for the state by noting that the victim made poor choices on the night in question, but people can learn from their mistakes in order to become a better person. The victim, though under the influence of alcohol, had been punched and knocked out to the point of almost having a concussion, which results in memory loss.
The victim woke up in pain from his face and his rectum, and when he asked Mr. Childers what happened to him, he was never given an answer. Leaving the scene to seek retaliation, the victim displayed acts of a victim of sexual assault.
After not finding his friend to get a gun, the victim eventually arrives to the house of a friend, Amanda Seals, who knows that something is wrong. Inevitably, she comes to the conclusion that the victim had been raped, convincing him to do the right thing and go to the hospital. The victim, stated Mr. Thomas, will feel the effects of the incident for the rest of his life.
Using a powerpoint presentation, the state stressed that the case surpasses gender or sexuality, defining sexual assault to the jury while noting the evidence is overwhelming. Reasonable doubt was reiterated and compared to a puzzle with missing pieces--though the pieces aren't available, the picture can still be seen and determined--as this case will show sexual assault occurred.
Mr. Thomas also recounted the witnesses and evidence from the entire case-- to those who saw the victim drunk, medical experts who saw the physical evidence from the incident, law enforcement who heard different stories from Mr. Childers and the state's DNA expert who found "scientific certainty" of Mr. Childers' involvement. It was also noted that the defense's DNA expert said that his findings were consistent to the state.
However, the jury has to consider the victim and defendant's testimony. From the victim, it was discovered why sexual assault victims do not come forward because of a variety of accusations, but also the truth was discovered. From Mr. Childers, a changing story, the withholding of information and inconsistency was heard.
Mr. Thomas also showed excerpts of the video interviews Mr. Childers had with Sweetwater Police Department (SPD) detective Sam Cunningham. The videos showed the defendant gradually offering more information, acknowledging the victim's pain and his pleas to God.
The main question to the event was whether the victim engaged in consensual sex, to which the state said no, asking the jury to find Mr. Childers guilty of sexual assault.
Paul Hanneman, the defense attorney, opened his closing argument by referencing to the state's argument. He cited the testimony of the nurse who administered the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) test and the state's mentioning of the law regarding sexual assault.
Stressing that the case is about the evidence and not closing arguments, the defense noted that the DNA results found a mixture on a black shirt that was found. Mr. Childers' DNA was also found in other evidence samples because he had sex with the victim.
Mr. Hanneman called the state out on using the video footage out of context in their closing argument, to which he finished the statements and reminded the jury to look at all of the evidence. He stated that Mr. Childers was embarrassed to talk to Mr. Cunningham about the incident because of the sexual aspect but believed the detective would help him.
The defense emphasized the personalities of those involved in the case. Mr. Childers was the young, submissive, feminine person in the relationship, while the victim was the older, aggressive, male role. According to the defense, the sexual activity was mutual because Mr. Childers gave the victim what he wanted.
Also, the personalities of the witnesses and their testimony was scrutinized. Based upon their character, the victim had a problem with alcohol and drugs and even possibly had a multiple personality disorder. He enjoyed the excitement and attention, living in a different reality.
Mr. Hanneman also noted that the victim was wearing "beer goggles" that night--with his high tolerance of alcohol, in that the alcohol led him to think Mr. Childers looked like the pop singer Rihanna. However, the victim regretted his decision the next morning of being with the defendant.
In addition, the victim doesn't tell all of the story but forgets things like dealing drugs and the name of a friend, making the victim unbelievable. However, bias, prejudice or sympathy should not dictate the verdict's outcome.
The defense also recalled the interviews of Mr. Childers with Mr. Cunningham. The written statement, according to the defense, was not coached; the video interrogations showed Mr. Cunningham discussing the Aryan Brotherhood, the offer of a polygraph test and Mr. Childers learning about the DNA results.
Mr. Childers, though, did not lie during those meetings, but if the jury believed that he did, they cannot prosecute him on that issue or for being gay but according to the charge. The victim was able to resist if he chose and was able to communicate during the act.
The testimonies of others during the trial came from friends of both the victim and defendant, and the victim's testimony discounted the SANE nurse's evidence. The number of men who assaulted him, the forced entry into the car and even the abrasions sustained by the victim were all questioned. The evidence, the defense stated, proves that there was consent, in which Mr. Childers should be found not guilty.
Mr. Thomas was then given the chance around 11:10 a.m. to offer his final argument to the jury, in that the defense's explanation of the evidence was "ludicrous". The SANE nurse's experience led to her conclusion and Mr. Cunningham's sole duty was to find the facts.
The state would not stop with only the victim's testimony but looked at the entire evidence submitted. The DNA found on the black shirt didn't match the two men because it was from the owner of the shirt.
Additionally, Mr. Childers was asked if he would simply be willing to take a polygraph test. Later, it was determined that the test wouldn't be beneficial.
According to the state, only Mark Williams, an inmate, testified that the victim came back to the Cafe, also known as the Club Phoenix, around 4 a.m. Mr. Williams also stated that the only ones who knew what occurred that night were the victim and defendant.
While the details in the victim's account might have been missing, the story never changed. Mr. Thomas questioned how the defense could change the gender of Mr. Childers in their explanation and urged the jury to look at all of the evidence along with the victim's testimony.
Before 11:20 a.m., Mr. Harrison gave the jury further instructions before they began their deliberations.