Friday, March 11, 2011
Waco - Both prosecutors and defense attorneys announced they are ready for a jury trial of Benjamin Alan Morrison on a 9-count indictment involving the aggravated sexual assault of a female child younger than 14.
Criminal 19th District Court Judge Ralph T. Strother scheduled jury selection for the trial to begin Tuesday, March 22, at 8:30 a.m.
Mr. Morrison is charged with 8 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a female juvenile victim and 1 count of continuing sexual abuse of a child. A conviction for any of the rape charges could net him a sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The sexual assaults are alleged to have taken place over a 5-year period, part of which time he lived in the married housing section of the Texas State Technical College while he attended classes there.
Both prosecuting attorneys and defense counsel told the judge they have no further pre-trial business to bring before the court at today's hearing.
Prosecutors have filed a notice to use the hearsay testimony of another person to substitute for the direct testimony of the child victim. Defense counsel have filed a motion in exception to what they labeled the Court's prohibition of explaining to veniremen the difference in standards of proof in criminal cases as opposed to that of civil matters.
Part of a standard questionnaire formulated by the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System, the question refers to the fact that jurors will be expected to find a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty. In civil trials, jurors are required to render a verdict based on a preponderance of evidence to support the allegations of complaint as stated in the petition accompanying the lawsuit.
Mr. Morrison asked for and obtained another attorney after complaining in writing to Judge Strother repeatedly that Darren Obenoskey, his original court-appointed counsel, asked him at their first meeting if he is willing to plead guilty to the indictment.
Judge Strother appointed John M. Hurley as co-counsel to Mr. Obenoskey. Mr. Morrison said in court papers that he has filed a grievance against Mr. Obenoskey with the State Bar of Texas.
The defense counsel also filed a motion that would require prosecution witnesses to disclose their former arrest and conviction records upon examination. Mr. Morrison has elected to have the jury assess his punishment if he is convicted.
The case drew some attention after it was learned that Mr. Morrison was released on a personal recognizance bond when the former District Attorney administration of John Segrest had failed to obtain a Grand Jury indictment within the required 90 days. Mr. Obenoskey obtained his release on a writ of habeas corpus.
In cases of a personal recognizance bond, the defendant is placed under an agreement to have a chattel - in Mr. Morrison's case $100,000 - placed against his real property if he fails to show up following an indictment or a court summons.
No bond fee is required.
Authorities re-arrested him in early August following his indictment.
Posted by The Legendary at 12:50 PM