Judge denies request to dismiss Johnson rape case

2013-02-05T08:30:00Z 2014-10-03T14:28:04Z Judge denies request to dismiss Johnson rape caseBy Gwen Florio of the Missoulian missoulian.com

Just days before former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson is scheduled to go on trial for rape, a Missoula County District Court judge has denied a motion to dismiss the case against him.

That motion – hinging largely on a single sentence in a Missoula Police Department policy manual on the handling of sex crime investigations – “is simply without merit,” Judge Karen Townsend wrote in an order issued Jan. 31 and filed Monday.

Johnson’s trial on a charge of sexual intercourse without consent is to begin Friday with jury selection. He is accused of raping a fellow UM student as the two watched a movie at her home in February 2012.

In its second motion to dismiss the case (Townsend denied the first in September), Johnson’s attorneys pointed to a sentence in the police policy manual that reads “every sex crime investigation is to be initiated with the belief it is true until evidence demonstrates otherwise.”

The defense argued that the statement could bias investigations, create a presumption of guilt rather than innocence and violate due process.

But the prosecution countered that a full reading of the policy reveals a requirement that the police “obtain the information necessary to determine a crime is being alleged” and “establish whether a crime occurred.”

“It makes no sense for a police agency to have a policy that assumes the reporter of a crime is making a false report, since such assumption would negate the need for an investigation,” the state contended.

Townsend’s order stressed that an investigation is not a trial, adding that “it is the purpose of an investigation to look for evidence of a crime as well as evidence of innocence. ...

“It is not until the time of trial that the defendant is guaranteed a right to a fair trial and is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” according to the judge’s order.

The judge’s order is among a torrent of legal paperwork, nearly all of it remaining under seal, that has been filed in the weeks leading up to the trial.

The case has attracted intense scrutiny. Jury selection is expected to run all day Friday and will be held at the Holiday Inn Downtown to accommodate the extra-large jury pool of 400.

Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com, or @CopsAndCourts.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Bass Whacker
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    Bass Whacker - February 05, 2013 1:57 pm
    The irony here is that even with a directive to accept the complainant's story as true, the police and CA's office still initially declined to press charges under the girl's story. I think this motion was a way to pave a line of cross examination which wiill have anyone from the County look foolish, weak, and driven in reponse to being investigated by the Feds. It's likely to turn into a trial of the CA's office and the complainant, and rightfully so.
  2. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - February 05, 2013 11:00 am
    You really ought to take your show on the road. Pretty good satire.
  3. pophouse
    Report Abuse
    pophouse - February 05, 2013 10:23 am
    Thanks for the clarification and expounding beyond that.
  4. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - February 05, 2013 9:33 am
    In fairness to the defense attorneys, there is a duty to preserve issues for potential appeal. If you have the resources, you through everything and the kitchen sink at it. True, this particular motion seems a long shot. I'm not surprised it was denied. For those watching this case, the defense motions, though all denied, and all making an improbable reach as pre-trial motions go, probably say a lot about the defense strategy at trial. I have a little time and I think I may attend at least parts of this trial.
    Obviously the trial will turn on whether the jury views the alleged act as consensual or non consensual. It's really the only issue in the trial. Of course, it will be a he said, she said, with the jury deciding based on the demeanor of the alleged victim and possibly the defendant, as well as the testimony of witnesses who saw or heard things peripheral to the alleged event The defendant has the right to not testify. And defense attorney's often do not want their defendants to testify. But in a trial where consent is the issue and only the alleged victim and defendant were present, his testimony might be required. The problem is always that the defendant is exposed to cross examination. The late Johnnie Cochran is credited with the statement, "The path to prison is paved with defendants who testified at trial." This one will be interesting.
  5. Nils
    Report Abuse
    Nils - February 05, 2013 9:13 am
    Similar to doctors ordering every test under the sun. Failure to do so can expose you to a claim of malpractice or worse, result in the failure to preserve a particular issue for the client's potential appeal. Better to file every conceivable motion than to risk the Supreme Court telling you on appeal that because you failed to file a certain motion, the Court will not consider that issue on appeal.
  6. pophouse
    Report Abuse
    pophouse - February 05, 2013 8:12 am
    I have never understood the strategy of filing a mountain of dubious motions. It doesn't seem to impress the judges much, anyway. Except from the standpoint of amassing billable hours -- then it makes sense.
  7. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - February 05, 2013 7:29 am
    Obviously the Police Policy Manual is biased in favor of the complainant. Accusations must be investigated with the attitude that everyone is entitled to presumption of innocence, unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.
  8. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - February 05, 2013 6:40 am
    What a tragedy. This is a show alright. One orchestrated by certain groups within UM bent on a political agenda.
  9. sportscaster
    Report Abuse
    sportscaster - February 04, 2013 6:43 pm
    After all, the show must go on.
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