Court tosses ex-Oklahoma State player’s sexual assault conviction
TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma court has overturned the conviction of former Oklahoma State basketball player Darrell Williams, who was accused of sexually assaulting two women at an off-campus party in 2010.
In its 10-page decision released Tuesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals said the testimony of jurors at a special hearing last year suggested that at least two jurors made unauthorized visits to the crime scene, and that those visits were discussed during deliberations.
Williams was convicted in 2012 of two counts of rape by instrumentation and one count of sexual battery. The case sparked protest in the college city of Stillwater, including a well-attended church rally on Williams’ behalf.
Williams’ sentence didn’t include any jail time, but he was ordered to register as a sex offender. It was not immediately clear what the appeals court ruling would mean for Williams’ sex offender status.
Payne County District Attorney Tom Lee said Thursday that his office would decide in coming weeks whether to seek a new trial.
Williams was not immediately available for comment. His aunt, Mildred Williams, said the family might issue a statement later Thursday but needed to meet with the attorneys first.
"We’ve been crying, shouting. It’s good news. It’s great news!" Mildred Williams said in a phone interview Thursday from her home in Chicago.
Williams’ trial lawyer, Cheryl Ramsey, applauded the reversal. His current defense attorney, John Coyle, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Two women testified at trial that Williams groped them against their will at the party. One said Williams held her against her will and dragged her in a yard. She said the attack happened in the basement of the house and that no one came to her aid.
"It made me feel violated and sick to my stomach," she testified.
Williams’ attorneys argued that he was misidentified, noting that the women identified Williams as their attacker after police showed them a lineup of the Oklahoma State basketball team. The women testified that they identified Williams after police showed them a photo of the team.
Williams’ family said Williams, who is black, was an innocent victim of misidentification by the white women at the party and of racial profiling by a mostly white jury picked from a largely white jury pool.
A rally on Williams’ behalf in 2012 packed a Baptist church in Stillwater, a community of about 50,000 people around 70 miles north of Oklahoma City, and was attended by the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The civil rights leader assured the dozens in attendance that God would see Williams through. Some supporters wore bright orange "Free Darrell" T-shirts, and Jackson led the crowd in a cheer of "Set Darrell free!"
Witnesses for the defense testified that several players at the party wore similar Oklahoma State warm-up suits, and Williams’ attorneys said that could have led to a misidentification.
Williams’ attorneys maintained that no one at the party heard anyone scream, saw any struggles or reported anything inappropriate. Neither of the women suffered any cuts or scratches, and no clothing was torn after the alleged incident.