Appeals court overturns ex-Baylor football player’s rape conviction

Sam Ukwuachu (left) and his attorney, William Bratton III of Dallas, after the hearing. (Photo by John Carroll)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The 10th Court of Appeals has overturned the sexual assault conviction of a former Baylor football player and sent the issue back to the district court for new trial.

The three judge panel issued the decision Thursday that reverses the August 21, 2015 conviction of Samuel Ukwuachu based upon evidence presented during arguments before the appeals panel that brought question to some evidence that was presented in trial.

"We are pleased the court of appeals reached the decision this morning," Ukwuachu's attorney, William Bratton III said in a statement.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna released a statement on the order Thursday morning: "After reading the opinion of the 10th Court of Appeals and the 54th District Court record in this case, I have decided to request the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals review this matter further," Reyna said in the news release.

"We will continue the fight on behalf of our victim and her family.

"While I respect the 10th Court of Appeals, I disagree with their decision and reasoning in this case.

"I am extremely confident in the decisions made by our prosecutors and the rulings made by Judge Johnson in the trial of this case," Reyna's statement said.

Appeals lawyers for Ukwuachu argued that evidence from cellular telephone records pertaining to certain times that phones were used proved that the prosecution’s assertion that the times recorded on the cell phones supported their case against Ukwuachu.

Prosecutors said the phone records proved that a witness for the defendant lied in his testimony because the data showed that the witness could not have been at Ukwuachu’s apartment at the time of the incident and could not have witnessed the interaction between Ukwuachu and his accuser.

But in the appeal lawyers argued that times posted by prosecutors were local times and the times included in the data actually were six hours earlier than the local time.

The ruling said: “In six issues, Ukwuachu complains that the trial court erred by allowing the State to reference the cell phone records of his roommate during its cross-examination of his roommate and his roommate's friend, that the indictment was defective, that evidence of an extraneous offense was improperly admitted, that his due process rights were violated due to an abuse of the grand jury process by the State, and that text messages between the victim and a friend of hers the night of the alleged offense were improperly excluded …”

“Because we find that the trial court erred by disallowing the admission of evidence … we reverse the judgment of conviction and remand this proceeding for a new trial,” the order said.

"My review of the court record showed there was evidence that did not go before the jury that we felt should have been allowed. Specifically the text messages the court referred to in its opinion," Bratton said.

"I believe the outcome of this trial may have been different if that evidence had gone before the jury."

Ukwuachu was convicted in Judge Matt Johnson’s 54th District Court and the issue now will go back there for re-trial.

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