The legal saga involving Sam Ukwuachu’s rape conviction continued on Thursday.
The Waco, Texas, 10th Court of Appeals overturned the former Baylor transfer’s conviction, 13 months after the conviction had been upheld. The reversal will be appealed by the McLennan District Attorney’s office, paving the way for the continuation of the court fight after a new trial was ordered by the 10th Court on Thursday.
"Because we find that Ukwuachu's due process rights were violated by the use of false testimony, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial," the eight-page ruling written by Chief Justice Tom Gray states.
McLennan County Executive Assistant District Attorney Tom Needham said the DA's office thinks the 10th Court ruling is "both legally and factually incorrect" and that it will appeal the ruling to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Ukwuachu had been convicted of raping a Baylor soccer player in 2013.
Conviction upheld in June of 2018
The Texas court of criminal appeals upheld Ukwuachu’s conviction a year ago after a lower appeals court ruled that the conviction should be overturned and a new trial held because evidence was excluded.
Ukwuachu’s attorneys have argued that texts between his victim and friends were improperly excluded and the criminal court of appeals panel unanimously said in 2018 that there was no grounds to overturn the conviction on that basis.
But that court sent the case back to the 10th Court regarding other issues. In its opinion on Thursday, the 10th Court noted issues with phone records from Ukwuachu’s roommate.
“We find that the State’s repeated references to what the cell phone records showed, including the location and time of calls made, without their admission into evidence created a false impression with the jury. Testimony was elicited from both Ukwuachu’s roommate and Ukwuachu’s roommate’s friend while referencing records that were not in evidence and in a manner that indicated that the records definitively showed Ukwuachu’s roommate’s location at certain critical times when they did not.”
Ukwuachu never played a game for Baylor
Ukwuachu sat out the 2013 season because of NCAA transfer rules after transferring from Boise State. He was indicted in 2014, around the same time a lengthy magazine feature detailed the way that Baylor had mishandled the allegation against Ukwuachu. Baylor had contended that it didn’t know anything about Ukwuachu’s past when he transferred to the school.
Former coach Art Briles was fired in the spring of 2016 after an independent investigation into the way the school and football program handled accusations of sexual assault.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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