Jury acquits former Baylor standout of sexual assault
Jurors returned a not guilty verdict Thursday afternoon in the sexual assault trial of former Baylor standout Shawn Oakman.
Oakman's supporters cheered in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.
Oakman was accused of raping another student in 2016.
Deliberations got underway just after 2 p.m.
Jurors returned the verdict just after 4:30 p.m.
Oakman did not testify.
Oakman, who was arrested on April 13, 2016, 10 days after authorities executed a search warrant at his campus area apartment, maintained the sex was consensual.
“They fired my coach and I feel all that was on me,” said Oakman, who was arrested in April 2016, about six weeks before Baylor University regents fired head football coach Art Briles after hearing a scathing review of the university’s handling of sexual assaults involving football payers.
“We built this program from the bottom up and they tarnished us,” he said.
“We aren’t animals, we’re good people,” he said.
McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson said he respects the jury’s decision.
“We are disappointed in the verdict of course, but we respect the criminal justice system and we believe in the jury system,” he said.
During closing arguments before deliberations began Thursday,
Assistant District Attorney Robert Moody told the jury, “This victim carries with her this pain every single day,”
“Justice demands you find the defendant guilty.”
Oakman’s attorney, Jessi Freud, told jurors, “The burden of proof is on the state and they have failed to prove their case.”
“Everyone’s testimony on both sides say she was not intoxicated. The victim is the only one saying she was intoxicated....They were together because they wanted to be.”
“They had consensual sexual intercourse,” she told the jury.
“Find Shawn Oakman not guilty,” he said.
Prosecutor Hilary LaBorde closed out final arguments by telling the jury, “You saw the victim, she had trauma, she has done everything she can do to stop it from happening again by testifying even though she couldn’t even look at that man,” as she pointed at Oakman.
Earlier Thursday, the defense called three of Oakman’s friends to the stand Thursday morning.
One, Pat Levels, testified that Oakman was at the campus area club Scruffy Murphy’s for a “going away party.”
“We knew the (NFL) draft was coming up and he was a big star.”
He said he saw the victim and Oakman standing together at the club.
He said the woman did not appear to be intoxicated.
Oakman’s roommate, Chris Sanders, testified he walked back to the home he and Oakman shared with Oakman and the woman and then left, saying he wasn’t in the residence at the time of the alleged incident.
The state called a final witness Thursday morning before the defense presented its case.
The victim of the alleged assault, Jane Doe, as she is listed in Oakman’s indictment, was visibly upset and crying during nearly an hour of testimony Wednesday afternoon.
She testified she was intoxicated when she left the campus-area club Scruffy Murphy’s with Oakman in the early morning hours of April 3, 2016.
She told the eight-woman, four-man jury that she didn’t even remember the walk to his duplex two blocks away, and remembered only portion of what happened in the next few hours.
She never looked at Oakman while on the witness stand.
“I remember being on his front porch, then being pushed into his bedroom.” she testified.
“I then remember my head being pushed into the bed and his hands around my neck during the alleged assault.”
In earlier testimony, a forensic examiner nurse Michele Davis said the victim told her that “she was scared and just zoned out and wanted to leave.”
Davis told the jury that the victim told her at the hospital hours after the alleged rape, “When he was holding me down he choked me and I remember struggling to breathe and he enjoyed that.”
She told the jury there were tears, abrasions and bruises to the woman’s genitals.
The prosecution called nine witnesses to the stand on Wednesday including the two friends with whom the victim went out drinking before the alleged sexual assault.
They testified they did not think she was intoxicated.
One testified that she texted the victim as she walked away, asking if she was OK.
The victim, she testified, replied that she was.
In opening statements Wednesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Hillary LaBorde told the jury the state would prove charge, presenting forensic and scientific evidence, testimony from friends and others and “some things up close and personal you’d probably just as soon not see.”
Oakman’s lawyer, E. Alan Bennett, told jurors they were there for one simple reason,
“There’s no question that there was sexual activity that night, we already know that.
“We’re here for you to decide if that sexual activity was consensual. That’s it,” Bennett said.
The first prosecution witness, Waco police Officer Danny Pilgrim, testified that he was the first officer to arrive at Providence Health Center in response to the report of a sexual assault.
“I found the victim, her friends and a nurse in the family room. She was upset, red-faced, crying and visibly shaking,” Pilgrim said.
He also said the victim told him she’d been sexually assaulted, told him where the sexual assault took place and identified Oakman as the person who did it.
Pilgrim said he saw marks on her body, especially on her neck and arms, which he photographed, and prosecutors introduced those pictures into evidence.
The nurse later provided evidence collected during her examination, which Pilgrim turned into the evidence section for forensic testing.
Pilgrim testified the victim and her friends accompanied him to Oakman’s duplex apartment, after which the officer, along with a detective assigned to the case, secured a search warrant for the property.
During a subsequent search police found evidence and, again, took pictures of the scene, but when the state attempted to have 10 of those photos entered into evidence, Bennet objected to two of them and the judge granted his objection.
Under cross-examination, Pilgrim agreed he had no way of knowing when the red marks and bruises on the victim’s body got there and, in fact, it could have been hours, even days before she reported the assault.
Bennett asked if Pilgrim had taken the photographs earlier admitted and he answered yes, then he testified the SANE nurse at Providence had to borrow his camera to record images for the hospital because their camera was broken.
The former defensive end was a two-time All-Big 12 selection who ranks first on Baylor's all-time sacks list and second on the school's all-time tackles for loss list.
Oakman was the third Baylor football player to be tried for sexual assault in the past five years.
Tevin Elliott, a former defensive end was sentenced to two concurrent 20-years prison terms and a $10,000 fine in January 2014 after he was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault.
On Aug. 20, 2015, Samuel Ukwuachu, a one-time All-American who transferred to Baylor, but never played for the school, was found guilty of raping a female Baylor soccer player in October 2013.
He could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison for the rape of the 18-year-old student, but jurors decided on probation, instead.
State District Judge Matt Johnson also sentenced Ukwuachu to 180 days in county jail and ordered him to perform 400 hours of community service.
Ukwuachu was released from jail on a $100,000 appeal bond on Oct. 29, 2015.
On March 23, 2017, the Waco-based 10th Court of Appeals reversed the decision, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later reinstated it and sent it back to the 10th Court where arguments are still pending.