Criminal Justice

Was too-handsome-for-rape defense effective? Jury didn't buy it, prosecutor says

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Jurors in Cobb County, Ga., didn’t buy a consent defense to an attempted sexual assault charge in a retrial this month, and they didn’t buy a too-handsome-to-rape defense in the first trial, according to the prosecutor in the case.

Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring tells the Daily Report (sub.req.) that a hung jury in the first trial of Darrious Mathis was due to a holdout who believed there was a police conspiracy to fake a video recording of the defendant running to the victim’s car in a CVS parking lot. Jurors in the second trial convicted Mathis of kidnapping, carjacking, possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime, and assaulting with intent to rob and rape, the story says.

But a defense lawyer in the first case, Dwight Thomas of Atlanta, tells the Daily Report that the lawyer representing Mathis in the second trial should have focused on the defendant’s good looks. “I’d have done it again,” Thomas said. According to the Daily Report, the too-handsome-too-rape argument “drew howls on the Internet.”

Thomas told the Daily Report the alleged victim was white and the defendant was black, and the trial was in a predominantly white and conservative suburb. He decided he needed more than just a consent argument.

“I had him stand up,” Thomas said of his client. “I told the jury, ‘I wish I had what this guy’s got.’ ” Thomas said he urged jurors to take a good look at Mathis. “Don’t take my word for it. Look at him,” Thomas says he told the jury. “A lot of women like this—and some men, too.”

Thomas represented Mathis with Hannah Ward, but the defendant was unable to pay private lawyers in the second trial.

Mathis was not charged with rape in the Cobb County trial because, by his own account, the sex occurred in Fulton County, the story says. Mathis had contended he approached the woman in the drug-store parking lot to ask if she would like to buy pain pills. He testified she agreed, asked him to go with her to an ATM to get cash, and she suggested sex. The woman says Mathis pointed a gun at her. No pills were found and the woman had no history of drug abuse.

Thomas said the defense was likely hampered in the second trial because prosecutors were made aware of a key piece of evidence: a note with the woman’s phone number that she gave to Mathis. Prosecutors were prepared for the note in the second trial with testimony from a witness who works with rape victims. The witness said it would not be unheard of for a traumatized victim to hand over a phone number.

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