A Douglas County judge has ordered a new trial for 25-year-old Albert Wilson, a former University of Kansas student convicted of rape.
Wilson was 20 years old when he was accused of raping a then 17-year-old girl in Lawrence he met at a bar.
The case has drawn national attention, including from some celebrities.
Supporters believe Wilson’s conviction was unfair because of a lack of physical evidence, an all-white and mostly female jury, and alleged racial bias from a problematic prosecutor, Amy McGowen.
Wilson sought a new trial on the basis that his court-appointed trial attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel. Judge Sally Pokorny agreed in her ruling Tuesday, watched by close to 800 people.
“It’s very rare to be successful on ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Whether it is done during the course of direct appeal, like we did in this case, or afterward. It’s probably a 1 to 3 success rate,” Wilson’s attorney 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.”
The judge also noted thousands of text messages omitted as evidence in the trial that could have influenced the jury’s decision. Attorneys argue this evidence contradicted statements in psychiatric evaluations and courtroom testimony.
“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,” said Josh Dubin, attorney for Wilson and ambassador advisor attorney for the Innocence Project based in New York. “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.”
Wilson’s attorneys said they’re optimistic about a fresh start at proving their client is innocent.
Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez released this statement:
“This morning, the Honorable Sally D. Pokorny, District Judge, issued her ruling in State of Kansas v. Albert N. Wilson. In short, Judge Pokorny ruled that during the trial proceedings in this matter, Mr. Wilson was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel. As a result, Mr. Wilson is entitled to a new trial.
“Though I have followed this case, all evidentiary proceedings and briefing were completed before I assumed the office of District Attorney. I and Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden shall review the Court’s most recent ruling, as well as all other relevant materials in this case.
“As in all cases, this Office remains committed to pursuing equal and equitable justice for all affected parties.”
Wilson will be brought back for a bond hearing in Douglas County on March 23.
His attorneys said they’re working with the district attorney, in this case, to see if there are any non-trial resolutions possible.