Jury finds Lufkin man not guilty of raping paralyzed woman

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County jury has found a Lufkin man not guilty of sexually assaulting a paralyzed woman.

The jury issued the verdict after about an hour of deliberation.

Christon D'Shawn Jeffries, 18, testified Wednesday morning he did not rape a physically handicapped woman, but he did get high with her.

Jeffries was tried for aggravated sexual assault after a physically handicapped woman said he sexually assaulted her after she would not give him any candy. The charge against Jeffries is enhanced since the victim is handicapped.

"I'm very excited about the verdict," said Jeffries' mother, Charlotte Jeffries. "I believe the jury did exactly what we had expected them to do, since there was no DNA evidence found."

After Judge Paul White discharged the jury, attorneys worked on other pending charges for Jeffries, as he was charged with aggravated robbery for stealing the victim's purse and fraudulent use of identifying information, for possessing identification of the victim.

"We trust the judge in his justice and wisdom that he'd make the right decision after he hears all the evidence," said Charanza.

The attorneys agreed to drop the robbery charge and Jeffries pleaded guilty to the fraud charge. White will determine a sentencing on that charge on Thursday.

"The other charges, he did what he said he did, and I'm okay with that," said Charlotte Jeffries.

According to the police report, the female victim showed up at her Lufkin church at 8:14 p.m. and told the preacher that she needed the police. Police arrived at the church and the woman told them that Jeffries came to the house with her daughter and her daughter's friends. The daughter and her other friends left, but Jeffries stayed behind to charge his cell phone, according to the report.

The woman told police that she was on a mattress on the floor eating candy and Jeffries asked if he could have some. The woman told him no and said Jeffries got off the couch and laid down next to her on the mattress.

The woman said she told Jeffries he could have some candy but he said, "I don't want candy," and began sexually assaulting her.

The report says he assaulted her for a "long time," then he took the mattress out from under her to keep her from leaving the house, due to her condition.

Testimony continued Wednesday morning with Jeffries testifying he would sometimes help pay for marijuana, but he never brought it to the victim's house although he did smoke it there with her.

Jeffries admitted he would talk to his friends about getting high through text messages.

According to court testimony, the alleged victim rolled a blunt and passed it around several times to allow everyone in the apartment to take a hit, including Jeffries.

"Did you get high?" asked Angelina County Assistant District Attorney Dale Summa.

"Yes I did," Jeffries replied.

Jeffries explained when he is high, he normally is just himself. He said he does get a good feeling and feels relaxed when he's high.

Testimony revealed Jeffries has been diagnosed with bipolar and ADHD. Jeffries testified he had been seeing a psychiatrist. However, he said the doctor didn't really tell him to not take other drugs or smoke marijuana with his daily medication. He said his medication helps with depression and calms him down.

Jeffries admitted he stole the victim's coin purse with the marijuana because she owed him about $40. He said he originally lied to investigators when they found her coin purse in his house. He said he thought he was being arrested because he took the coin purse, so he lied and said police may have planted the evidence in his house.

Summa pointed out the defendant had no problem lying about the coin purse and deceiving his dad about smoking marijuana.

"That's the truth," said Jeffries. "I didn't have sex with her."

Charlotte Jeffries said she's never doubted her son's innocence.

"And, we constantly asked him over and over, and we believed him. And, we trusted in God that it would be okay," said Charlotte Jeffries.

Jeffries said he was still high when police came to his house. He told jurors he never struck the victim on the head or pushed her down where she was flat on her back on the mattress.

Summa showed the defendant pictures of the victim with marks on her face.

The victim's daughter testified her mother didn't know how to text message. Another daughter testified she had traded her cell phone with a friend.

The victim testified she has never texted Jeffries because she doesn't know how. Testimony revealed her landline had been disconnected because the bill was not paid.

The defendant's mother Charlotte Jeffries testified her son is bipolar and has ADHD.

She admitted her son has a reputation for not being a truthful person where he lives in the Kennard area.

"I would like to say he has always told at least one person the truth about what happens," she said.

Lufkin Police Department Detective Otis Almond testified late Wednesday morning, giving his expertise regarding cell phone technology.

The prosecution played a tape of an interview Jeffries did with investigators on April 13, 2011, shortly after the alleged incident.

Jeffries talked about smoking weed that day. He said his eyes were burning because of the smoke.

"I was getting the munchies," he said.

Jeffries said he took about five minutes to finish his cigarette after the victim's daughters were leaving the house.

"I finished my Hot Pocket and my cigarette and I left," Jeffries said.

He said he left the alleged victim smoking inside the house.

"Why did she say you attacked her, took her pants off ... had sex with her?" the detective asked. "Look at me in the eyes ... tell me what happened."

In the interview, Jeffries tells investigators he didn't take the victim's coin purse and suggested the police may have put it there.

"She gave me a piece of candy," Jeffries said.

"Tell me what happened," the investigator said. "Tell me the truth ... the truth will set you free, or at least may set you free in the heart anyway."

Defense attorney Al Charanza questioned Almond about the methods used to collect evidence from cellphones.

Both sides rested and closed around 1:52 p.m.

In the charge, Judge Paul White explained jurors need to consider whether or not the defendant is guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual assault. However, on the second count, jurors can also consider a lesser-included offense of attempted aggravated sexual assault.

If Jeffries is found guilty on any county, the jury will assess his punishment.

In closing arguments, the prosecution pointed out the victim's disability makes it difficult for her to defend herself.

"It's up to you to determine the credibility or the believability of all the witnesses," said Summa.

He went on to point out there's not always DNA in every case.

Summa pointed out the victim readily admitted she had smoked marijuana with the defendant several times. The state told jurors that admission doesn't justify a sexual assault.

The prosecution told the jury text messages on Jeffries phone, even if they did come from the victim, were about getting high, not about coming over to have sexual intercourse.

"He thinks he can get out of everything by lying," Summa said.

He said the injuries found on the victim's face and other evidence on her body are consistent with her story.

The defense began addressing the jury by telling them his client is not on trial for theft.

"That is another offense, on another day," said Charanza.

He said today they are focusing on the rape charge.

"The biggest problem we have in the case is some of the facts," Charanza said.

The defense pointed out a lack of DNA evidence even after the woman was taken to the hospital and a rape kit was performed on her body.

"No, not in every case if DNA found, but in a case like this if he's guilty, it should be in the record and it's not," Charanza said.

"If she was raped, she was raped by someone else because Christon Jeffries was home," Charanza said. "Is it possible someone else showed up?"

The defense said the victim has trouble remembering things.

"This is a violent crime," said Charanza pointing out his client testified he is calm when he smokes marijuana.

The defense made a case that maybe another drug addict showed up at the house and raped the woman, not Jeffries.

"You've got to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt," Charanza urged.

He said the victim's marijuana use clouds her judgment. Charanza pointed out his client is facing prison time and a lifetime  as a registered sex offender.

"You must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt, no DNA," Charanza said. "It doesn't match up, it's not the same. There's all these inconsistencies…let the theft be another day….He's not free, he's admitted under oath he's committed theft."

The prosecution took the stand one final time. Summa asked jurors what reason the victim would have to lie about who raped her.

"The bottom line is that this defendant had sexual contact with his sexual organ and her sexual organ…that's the bottom line," Summa said.

The jury began deliberating at 3:04 p.m. In a little over an hour, they reached a not guilty verdict.

"It was one hour, and it showed me that there was reasonable doubt whether he was guilty of this offense," said Charanza. "And, we really appreciate the jury and their time and their hard work over the last couple of days."

Copyright 2011 KTRE. All rights reserved.