Verdict upheld in rape of 12-year-old

After hearing from a 12-member jury that convicted a Clinton man of aggravated rape, a state district judge said Thursday none of the testimony shows the verdict was influenced by the defendant’s decision against testifying in his own behalf.

Twentieth Judicial District Judge William G. Carmichael upheld the July 17 guilty verdict against William “Billy” Staton.

David Cazabat, one of the two jurors who did not vote to convict Staton, later raised the issue, 20th Judicial District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla said.

Staton was accused of forcing a girl under the age of 13 to have sexual intercourse with him in the summer of 2007, when she was 12 years old and living in East Feliciana Parish.

Staton’s trial was moved to West Feliciana Parish. An aggravated rape conviction carries an automatic life sentence, and Carmichael set sentencing for Feb. 21.

Ten of the jurors testified Oct. 4 in a hearing on defense attorney Benn Hamilton’s motion to throw out the jury verdict.

The hearing was continued until Thursday to hear from Cazabat and juror Pam Weage.

Defendants in criminal trials are presumed innocent and do not have to testify in their defense. Jurors also are instructed not to let a defendant’s silence influence their decision.

Cazabat testified the issue came up twice when the jury was outside the courtroom, with the jury foreman bringing it up once.

“If I was innocent, I would have got up on the stand and said I didn’t do it,” Cazabat said in describing the comment.

Three jurors agreed with the comment, Cazabat said, but he said he reminded them of the judge’s instructions.

The second time Staton’s silence came up, another person agreed with the comment, but Cazabat said he could not remember their names.

Asked if she heard someone say Staton should have testified, Weage said, “I believe I did.

“I didn’t pay any mind to that, because that was something we weren’t supposed to consider,” Weage said, adding that the subject did not come up during deliberations.

Carmichael said in ruling against Staton that seven of the 12 jurors either said they did not hear a comment about Staton not testifying or said they did not remember hearing it.

Five said they heard a comment, but four said a discussion followed in which someone told them they were not supposed to consider his decision not to testify, the judge said. No one testified the comments influenced the decision, the judge ruled.

Staton’s wife, Michelle Staton, 39, awaits sentencing after pleading “no contest” in August to a felony count of accessory after the fact to second-degree cruelty of a juvenile that stems from the allegations against William Staton.