Rape retrial arguments to begin for ex-Vanderbilt football player

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 13, 2016 7:03 AM

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Reuters) - Opening arguments are due to begin on Monday in the retrial of a former Vanderbilt University football player nearly a year after a judge declared a mistrial following his conviction for the June 2013 rape of an unconscious female student.

Jury selection in the trial of Brandon Vandenburg took place last week in Memphis, 200 miles from the university in Nashville, because of concern that media coverage had made it hard to find impartial local jurors. The trial is taking place in Nashville and is expected to last up to six days, prosecutors said.

Vandenburg and teammate Cory Batey, two of four former Vanderbilt football players charged with counts of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery, were found guilty in January 2015.

Prosecutors have said the victim in the case, which drew national attention to sexual assaults on college campuses, had been drinking with friends and then with Vandenburg and was unconscious during the attack in a dorm room.

Defense attorneys had argued that Vandenburg and Batey should be found innocent because Batey was too drunk to make a conscious decision about his actions, and Vandenburg was too intoxicated to commit an assault.

Judge Monte Watkins declared a mistrial in June 2015 and set aside the convictions because one of the jurors had failed to disclose that he himself had been a victim of rape.

The men were assigned separate retrials. Batey's jury in his second trial was also selected outside Nashville, in Chattanooga.

Batey was convicted again in April, and sentencing was scheduled for July 13. Aggravated rape carries a prison sentence of 15 to 25 years. His attorneys have said they plan to appeal.

The trials of the other accused former football players, Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie and Brandon Banks, are expected to be held after Vandenburg's retrial.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Ben Klayman)