Officials: Mistrial was clerical error

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 1999

A clerical error may be to blame for Wednesday’s mistrial in a sexual battery case involving Adams County Jail inmates.

&uot;It was nobody’s fault,&uot;&160;said District Attorney Ronnie Harper. &uot;We handle hundreds of cases and occasionally we have these little mistakes that occur.&uot;

Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders granted the mistrial because the defense was not given the victim’s hospital records prior to the trial.

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Inmate Louis McDonald – whose trial will be rescheduled – is the only one four inmates charged with the assault whose trial was set for this week. McDonald is serving 15 years for robbery.

The others will be tried later.

Although it is standard for the district attorney’s office to provide all paperwork to the defense, Assistant District Attorney David Hall said he also did not know medical records existed. Hall said the victim spoke with him Tuesday and prior to the trial Wednesday but did not mention the medical visit until he was on the witness stand.

Harper blamed the mistake on the 28-year-old victim’s status as an inmate. &uot;The vast majority of our cases obviously don’t involve a case that occurred within the jail,&uot; he said.

The sheriff’s department keeps two files on its inmates. The jail file, holds all the basic information on an inmate, such as routine medical visits.

The investigative file includes all the paperwork needed to prosecute the case, Harper said.

On the stand, the victim said he was not examined for sexual assault, but had X-rays taken of his arms and chest. &uot;The beating was so severe my arms were solid purple,&uot; he said.

Harper said he thinks the medical records were only placed in the jail file and never handed over as part of the investigation. &uot;We would never even know it existed,&uot; he said.

He said he does not think his office would withhold records from the defense. &uot;We certainly would not do anything like that intentionally, nor could we benefit from it,&uot; Harper said.

Adams&160;County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell also blames the mistrial on a clerical error.

&uot;Apparently, it got left out,&uot;&160;Ferrell said. &uot;(It was) just a mistake.&uot;

The victim was arrested in December 1998 and sentenced to three years after his probation was revoked on a vehicle arson charge.

The alleged sexual battery occurred the afternoon of March 17 and was reported by the victim to the sheriff’s department.

Ferrell declined comment on the specifics of the incident because of the pending trial. He also could not say if damaged locks at the county jail played a factor in the assault.

&uot;I don’t know and if I knew I could not answer,&uot; Ferrell said.