Testing boosts Mid's defense

Alleged rape victims test negative for drug, contradicting earlier evidence

December 07, 2006|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,Sun reporter

In a major break for a former Navy football player accused of rape, new test results show that neither of his two alleged victims was given a date-rape drug, his civilian attorney said yesterday.

The results of a second hair analysis, requested by military prosecutors, contradict previous evidence in the Naval Academy's case against Kenny Ray Morrison, 24, said William Ferris, his lawyer. Samples from the two women, who said they were attacked on separate occasions this year, tested negative for gamma-hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, a common date-rape drug.

The French lab ChemTox, a leading testing center for GHB hair samples, conducted the test after the previous GHB evidence was discredited at a preliminary hearing last month, Ferris said. The government's expert acknowledged on the stand that the positive GHB result did not fall into the time frame of either alleged assault.

"In light of these new developments, I would think that they should drop the charges, at least those that relate to the alleged date-rape drug," he said. "I can't imagine they can go forward on it. First their own expert contradicts them, and now another one says he doesn't find GHB at all."

In a written statement, the academy said that "newly acquired additional information" had been forwarded to the investigating officer who conducted the Article 32 hearing, akin to a civilian grand jury, so his recommendation on whether to pursue a court-martial "is based upon a thorough and complete review of all available facts."

The statement said another evidentiary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 20.

Dr. Bruce A. Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said GHB evidence has been discredited in other cases.

"The test is reliable if you do it right, and that means that it's properly standardized and properly controlled," he said. "The analysis of GHB in the hair is difficult and an analytical challenge. It's not as simple as a cocaine test in urine; it requires a high degree of sophistication. The typical toxicology lab would not have the capability to run these tests."

Anita Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Miles Foundation, a victim advocacy group that tracks sexual violence in the military, questioned whether the evidence in the case was mishandled.

"The vast majority of victims who are assaulted are going to civilian medical facilities for treatment, and often at those facilities, people have a certain level of training and education," she said. "The military does not necessarily have the same level of competence in this regard. So we would ask: Where was this forensic evidence collected, and what's the chain of custody of that evidence?"

Morrison, a senior from Kingwood, Texas, was charged with two counts of rape, distribution of a controlled substance and assault, as well as several less serious offenses.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. He was not allowed to graduate in May and has been assigned to the Washington Navy Yard while he awaits the outcome of his case.

At last month's hearing, the two women testified that Morrison drugged and raped them, although both acknowledged that they didn't remember much of what happened.

Speaking quietly, a female midshipman said she awoke in a Washington hotel room Feb. 4 after a night of heavy drinking to see Morrison, a virtual stranger to her.

"Basically, he wanted to have sex with me. I told him that I did not want to," said the woman, who added that she tried to resist him verbally and physically while he removed her clothes and raped her. She testified that Morrison sexually assaulted her twice more after that.

The second woman, a recent academy graduate, testified that she blacked out after drinking five beers, the last provided by Morrison, at an Annapolis bar April 21.

The next morning, the woman said, she woke up naked next to Morrison in an Annapolis house she didn't recognize.

The Sun does not identify people who allege sexual assault.

Ferris maintained at the hearing that the sexual relations in the Washington hotel were consensual, pointing out that the woman never called for help, even as others passed through the room.

In the case of the second woman, Ferris noted that she "doesn't remember anything" about what happened that night. And, Ferris said, she acknowledged kissing Morrison on the cheek when he drove her back to her car in an Annapolis parking garage the next morning.

The academy has struggled to hold its personnel accountable for sexual misconduct. Since 2001, two of 39 midshipmen accused of sexual misconduct have been convicted at trial. One was a rape charge in civilian court; the other was a child pornography case in a military trial. An academy spokeswoman said the school does not know of any case in which a midshipman has been convicted of rape at court-martial.

Morrison's was the third major sexual misconduct case the academy has taken up this year. Lt. Bryan Black, an academy oceanography instructor, was cleared of conduct unbecoming an officer after he used sexually explicit language in the presence of female midshipman.

Former standout quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr. was acquitted of rape but convicted of lesser charges after a two-week trial in July. He awaits a decision by the academy's superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, on whether he will graduate from the academy and earn his Navy commission or be expelled and forced to repay the $130,000 cost of his education.

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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