Story by Morgan Harlan | Staff Writer and Sarah Asinof | News Editor, Video by Kennedy Dendy | Broadcast Reporter
A McLennan County jury found former Baylor football player Shawn Oakman not guilty Thursday afternoon of sexual assault.
The jury deliberated for about two hours after listening to 10 state witnesses, including testimony from law enforcement, medical and psychological examiners, the alleged victim and of her friends. The defense called six witnesses to support their claim that Oakman and the woman had consensual sex. They included three friends the football player who saw him and the victim that night. The two and a half days of testimony included graphic images and text message logs.
The alleged victim testified during the trial on Wednesday, but Oakman did not take the stand. According to Hilary LaBorde, a prosecuting attorney on the case, the alleged victim did not make eye contact with Oakman during her testimony.
A friend of the victim started crying during her testimony. “It’s very hard to see your best friend go from completely happy to not wanting to live anymore,” she said.
Oakman’s trial had been pending for over two and half years after he was charged with sexual assault.
Robert Moody, one of the prosecuting attorneys, in his closing statements asked the jury why the victim would go through the process of a trial, physical examinations and interviews if the claim wasn’t true.
To demonstrate how the woman was penetrated by Oakman, Moody approached the jury box and hit the side of a table three times, saying that was how the woman was violated. Moody highlighted the large physical size of Oakman and his ability to physically harm and threaten others. He also told the jury they should show the community that this act is not tolerated.
“She gets to carry that through her life because of you,” said Moody as he pointed at Oakman towards the end of his closing statement.
Jessi Freud, one of the defense attorneys, answered the state’s charges. She told the jury to look at the evidence and not to assume any guilt when deciding their verdict.
Freud said Moody was trying to guilt the jurors into a decision. Freud wrote out the six names of the witnesses who testified on the whiteboard in the courtroom, and said all of them testified the victim was not drunk enough to have any memory impairment.
Freud also focused on the semen found orally on the victim. She said the prosecution didn’t want the jurors to know about that because it doesn’t align with forced sexual conduct. Freud also said the victim’s texts to her friends proved that it was a consensual act because she told her friends, who were at a nearby bar, to go home while she was at Oakman’s residence.
“Do not let them guilt you,” Freud told jurors.
Waco police officer Danny Pilgrim who was a state witness, responded to the incident when it allegedly took place. The alleged victim, according to text message logs used in the testimonies, texted Oakman and invited him to come to Scruffy Murphy’s, where her and her friends had been dancing.
Prosecutor Robert Moody asked officer Pilgrim, “If the victim texted Oakman, does that mean he can’t sexually assault her?”.“No.” Pilgrim said.
Hilary LaBorde delivered the final statement for the state. LaBorde said that there were significant injuries the victim sustained that did not align with consensual sex. The victim was bleeding for days after the incident and she suffered six vaginal tears.
“When you close your eyes, you know what she sees,” LaBorde said.
After the not guilty verdict was read, Oakman’s family and friends broke out in cries and screams. Oakman started to cry behind the defense table.
“Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord,” said some of the people in the courtroom. Bailiffs had to silence the crowd before court could be adjourned.
Afterward, Oakman briefly expressed his relief outside of the courthouse.
“All the glory to God,” Oakman said. “It don’t matter anymore. We back.”
Oakman, along with his family and friends, prayed outside of the courthouse in the parking lot.
“In the name of Jesus, we are family,” said a woman praying in the circle.
Oakman’s uncle, Kenneth Roberts, who helped raise him, said Oakman was robbed of three years of his life and now has the chance to do whatever he wants with his freedom.
The alleged victim did not attend the verdict reading, although, she was in the courthouse with her mother, according to Moody.