By Naomi Klouda
A Homer jury acquitted a man accused on six counts of sexual assault after a three-day trial last week in a case that involved an alleged rape after a Homer party involving teens and young adults.
On trial before the seven-man, seven-woman jury was Ralph Keith Vos, 24, a Kenai-area resident. He was charged and acquitted on all counts of first-degree and second-degree sexual assault.
The defense rested on Tuesday, with closing arguments Wednesday morning. The jury came back on Friday morning with a not-guilty verdict for all counts.
Defense attorney Andy Pevehouse argued the state didn’t make a case that proved beyond “a reasonable doubt” since there was little physical evidence to prove the sexual assault. The prosecution hadn’t ordered the proper level of DNA testing that would have proven his client’s innocence prior to bringing the case to a trial, Pevehouse told the jury in emotional closing arguments.
The jury heard testimony on the July 10, 2012 incident in which the alleged victim went to sleep around 3 a.m. after partying with about seven to 12 other people at a friend’s apartment. About 6 a.m. she awoke with her clothes pulled down and in the midst of being sexually assaulted, she told the jury.
Among prosecuting attorney Kelly Lawson’s expert witnesses was the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner who handled the exam when the teen was taken to South Peninsula Hospital on the morning of July 10. Nurse Gail Clause testified about about “both anal and vaginal bruising” consistent with sexual assault. The teen had testified that she changed her clothing but did not take a shower after the alleged rape.
The first witness Pevehouse called was a DNA expert. Testimony brought out that four swabs were used to gather physical evidence during the SART exam at South Peninsula Hospital five hours or so after the alleged rape, Pevehouse highlighted through expert witnesses.
“Four swabs – and not even one cell of Keith’s (Vos’) DNA,” he said. “All four swabs came back with no male DNA at all.”
The jury learned from several sets of experts – forensic experts, the SART nurse and a retired SART nurse – about how DNA shows up in crime scenes. It isn’t the end-all evidence, Lawson argued, “as television shows like CSI might have you believe.”
No male DNA was found in the bed where the alleged attack occurred, Pevehouse reminded the jury in closing arguments Wednesday morning.
His defense also looked to Vos’ character: “a hardworking commercial fisherman” who didn’t know of the charges against him until he inadvertently found the charges on Court View, Pevehouse said. He had been looking to pay a fine on a previous case against him.
“Did he run away like someone who was guilty? Flush from his commercial fishing pay, and still he didn’t run,” Pevehouse said. “Instead, three days later, he turns himself in.”
The case was increasingly “shrunk down” as it progressed, Pevehouse told the jury. It didn’t add up to the assertions by the prosecution.
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