Douglas County Judge Sally D. Pokorny has granted a new trial to Albert Wilson, the former Kansas University student who was found guilty of raping a White teenager by an all-White jury despite maintaining his innocence and lack of physical evidence. Wilson, who claimed he never even had sex with his rape accuser, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2019.
Wilson’s case particularly garnered a lot of national attention and was heavily discussed on social media, with celebrities including Meek Mill and Kim Kardashian throwing their support behind him. Wilson, who was 20 years old at the time of the incident, met his 17-year-old accuser at a bar in Lawrence, Kansas, in 2016.
According to NEWS, advocates have long argued Wilson’s trial was biased, pointing to lack of physical evidence and a mostly female all-White jury. Amy McGowen, a former prosecutor behind the case, was also accused of racial bias.
Wilson was granted the new trial after his lawyers reportedly argued the court-appointed trial attorney that was assigned to him gave him ineffective assistance of counsel.
“It’s very rare to be successful on ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Whether it is done during course of direct appeal, like we did in this case, or afterwards. It’s probably 1 to 3 success rate,” one of the attorneys for Wilson, Michael Whalen, said. “I’ve handled maybe 40 or 50 of these cases in district court and over 400 cases on appeal, and this case was the strongest case I have seen.”
Judge Pokorny justified her ruling by pointing to thousands of text messages that weren’t presented as evidence during the trial, adding that they could have possibly aided the jury when they were deliberating. According to attorneys, the text messages in question did not corroborate courtroom testimony as well as the psychiatric evaluation the accuser underwent.
“As fathers of many children between the two of us, we do not take these accusations lightly. We know she has a different perspective. We feel really strongly Albert is an innocent man who was wrongfully accused,” Josh Dubin, attorney for Wilson and ambassador advisor-attorney for the Innocence Project, told NEWS. “The reality of a retrial is we have to point out inconsistencies, we have to point out what we think was dishonest statements that the alleged victim made.”
Responding to the recent ruling, Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez released a statement saying her office is going to review it “as well as all other relevant materials in this case.”
“Though I have followed this case, all evidentiary proceedings and briefing were completed before I assumed the office of District Attorney,” Valdez said, adding: “As in all cases, this Office remains committed to pursuing equal and equitable justice for all affected parties.”
Wilson is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing on March 23.