Judge orders hung jury in rape trial to return for more deliberation
by By Brande Poulnot
Aug 19, 2010 | 2011 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Brande Poulnot

brande.poulnot@daily-tribune.com

The eight-woman, four-man jury chosen to hear the rape case of 23-year-old Michael Allen Bennett Jr. told Superior Court Judge Shepherd Howell on Wednesday it was unable to reach of verdict. Howell ordered the jury, the foreman of which said it was stuck on an 8 to 4 vote after more than three and half hours of deliberation, to return today to continue work.

Bennett is charged in connection with a November 2007 incident at a Pine Circle, Acworth, home. The alleged victim said she awoke to Bennett having sex with her. She, her boyfriend and Bennett had been drinking heavily.

Although he did not take the stand, Bennett's attorney, Frank Marquez, of the Atlanta law firm Belli, Weil, Grozbean & Davis LLP, argued in closing that the woman had given consent while intoxicated, appeared coherent and did not recall agreeing to have sex with Bennett. The attorney pointed to medical records indicating the alleged victim had no tearing and said there was no evidence of a struggle.

Prosecuting attorney Suzanne Brookshire told jurors in closing that Bennett took advantage of the woman, who had fallen ill after drinking, and pointed to evidence she was unwittingly given a soda spiked with liquor. Brookshire said Bennett had changed his story twice about the location in which he and the woman had spoken about sex earlier, and reminded jurors the pair had just met that day.

Marquez said Bennett's interview with police, a one to one and a half hour "pounding," culminated in the defendant saying he used bad judgment. But Bennett's bad judgment was not for raping the woman, but for sleeping with his friend's girlfriend, Marquez told jurors.

Brookshire said Bennett in his second interview with investigators stated he had held the woman's wrist, which coincides with bruising she allegedly sustained during the incident. Bennett also admitted in the second interview the woman was given a drink spiked with alcohol.

Marquez said police elicited the response because there was no evidence of a rape. Bennett said the two had sex, and DNA evidence was presented to the jury, but he told investigators throughout the interviews it was consensual, he said.

The attorney added the alleged victim agreed to have sex with Bennett to see if her boyfriend loved her. The pair are no longer dating.

Brookshire added the alleged victim was too intoxicated to consent to sex, and was unconscious when the sex act began.

The jury was ordered to return today at 9 a.m. to continue deliberations.