The law states that you are innocent until proven guilty. When it comes to the courtroom, the burden to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is on the prosecution. In the court of public opinion, you are guilty unless you can prove your innocence. Florida State quarterback, Jameis Winston, is the latest example of that. State Attorney, William Meggs, made an announcement today about accusations of sexual battery that were made against Winston. After the State of Florida conducted an investigation into the allegation, Meggs decided against filing any criminal charges on the FSU football player.
Winston’s case grabbed national media attention. USA Today reported the case stating:
“Winston had been under investigation since Nov. 13 in connection with the alleged Dec. 7, 2012 incident. The case did not reach the desk of the State Attorney William Meggs until nearly 11 months after the alleged incident, and only then after media outlets made public records requests to view the case file from the Tallahassee police.”
The State Attorney’s Office investigation involved obtaining a DNA sample from Winston which was tested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “Winston’s DNA was found in the woman’s underwear, but another male’s DNA was found on the woman’s shorts.” This weighed on Megg’s decision. He stated, “In the laboratory work that we did, there were DNA from males. One was identified as being Winston’s DNA and the other was unknown. Had we proceeded to trial, having an unknown DNA in a sexual assault case would be a problem.” Winston has never denied having sex with the woman. He claimed that the sex was consensual.
Another problem with the case was the late investigation. USA Today further reported that the State Attorney’s Office “is supposed to review all sexual assault cases to ensure law enforcement agencies have properly investigated and collected evidence before deciding whether there’s probable cause to make an arrest. He was unsure why that didn’t happen in this case.”
Tallahassee police chief, Tom Coe, did issue a statement about the Florida State rape allegations. He stated, “The police reports that we can now release, because the case is closed, contain details of our investigation and facts of the case. Those reports document that our department took the case seriously, processed evidence and conducted an investigation based on information available at that time. The reports also show that, while the victim was unwilling to move forward with charges at that time, all evidence was preserved in the event she was willing to move forward at a later date.”
On November 13, Meggs reopen the case. The case was already 11 months old. The alleged victim’s family spoke out about the incident. They “[criticized] the Tallahassee Police Department’s handling of the investigation.” They stated that “a TPD detective working on the case warned the woman’s attorney that she would be ‘raked over the coals’ if she proceeded with the complaint.”
As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have represented people falsely accused of crimes. The sad part is that most people are arrested first. Then, their Jacksonville criminal attorney investigates the case and tries to show the prosecution that the defendant did not commit the crime. We do this in order to convince the state attorney that our client is innocent and has been wrongfully charged. I have represented people accused of domestic battery in Jacksonville that were merely defending themselves from an abusive spouse. I have represented people charged with Jacksonville possession of a controlled substance when they did not even know that drugs were in the car. Even if the charges are later dropped, these people must still expunge their Florida criminal records if they want to clear their Florida criminal backgrounds.