A Maryland prisoner who was found beaten to death in his prison cell had his conviction overturned just four days later, the Associated Press reported—something that would have given the prisoner a new trial.
Roger Largent, 69, was found guilty last year of a 2015 assault of a mentally disabled woman. An appeals court on Wednesday said he should get a new trial because his conviction largely rested on a prosecution witness’ improper testimony.
Largent, a relative of the victim and a previous sex offender, had gone to the mentally disabled woman’s house in order to give her and her husband a ride to a doctor’s appointment. Upon entering the home, Largent then forcibly raped her while her blind husband was upstairs, the woman claimed.
"If I screamed or said anything, he would kill me," the woman claimed in court, according to The Herald-Mail.
The woman told her husband and police what had occurred, and Largent was questioned. Largent at first denied having sex with the woman, but then when a police officer lied and told him that his DNA was found on the victim, Largent claimed the sex was consensual. Legally, police are given some freedom to lie to suspects during interrogation.
In court, the defense argued that the sex had been consensual, and the victim had made up the story in order to hide her infidelity from her husband. One cornerstone of this argument was that the woman did not have any bruising or other wounds from the encounter.
The nurse who examined the woman, Ashley Hall, said that it is possible to be raped without showing any physical signs of assault. But her opinion was not qualified as an expert opinion by jurors, and the appeals court took issue with that.
Hall “relied on scientific and medical training beyond the understanding of the average juror when offering her testimony,” the appeals ruling said.
In the wake of Largent’s death, the state is looking for a family member of Largent’s to make legal decisions about the case on his behalf.
Largent’s cellmate is the suspect in his killing, but has not yet been charged.
[Image: Washington County Sheriff's Office]