A 30-year-old Oakwood man was found not guilty Friday by a Hall County jury of all charges related to a child molestation case.
After about five hours of deliberation, Joshua Ray McDougald was acquitted on two counts of aggravated sexual battery, statutory rape, two counts of aggravated child molestation and three counts of child molestation.
McDougald’s attorney, Senior Public Defender Brett Willis, said the jurors appropriately found reasonable doubt in the state’s lack of evidence.
“We didn’t have any witnesses; we didn’t need any witnesses,” he said. “The reasonable doubt was the lack of evidence the state had. I called it a dearth of evidence,” Willis said. “All they had was the two alleged victims — the two accusers — saying that these things had taken place and they had seen them and participated in them, and they had a Facebook chat ... that was sexually suggestive. And that was all.”
District Attorney Lee Darragh declined to comment on the case specifically but said “though the jury system in the U.S. is the greatest in the world, it does not always produce a just result. Jury verdicts nonetheless are to be respected and accepted.”
McDougald was accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl from June through September 2012.
He faced four life sentences, Willis said, with conviction of an aggravated charge carrying an automatic life sentence.
The state, represented by assistant district attorney Shiv Sachdeva, was granted a motion by Judge Kathlene Gosselin just before opening statements to exclude evidence that Willis said the jury “should have known.”
The motion forbade the defense from questioning witnesses or arguing to the jury about convicted perpetrators: a Gainesville couple who had molested the same teen during the same time period McDougald was accused.
Corey Dave Smith was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum 37 years to be served in prison. His wife Brittani Lee Smith was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with five to serve.
“The state used the Rape Shield law to exclude any mention, any involvement, of these other perpetrators,” Willis said. “The Rape Shield law excludes otherwise relevant evidence and it says ‘You can’t talk about this.’”
Willis said the motion hindered the jury’s ability to see evidence relevant to the defense.
“They (the prosecution) want the jury to think that the defendant is the only person who’s ever allegedly done anything to the accuser, so that the jurors are left with an incomplete picture,” he said. “... If they think the accuser has been molested because of her behavior and how she comes across, well, your guy is the only one sitting there.”
Darragh disagreed, and said the motion was “properly employed and ruled upon in this case.”
“Whether certain evidence is admissible or not is governed by law — not the opinions of either side in a criminal case,” Darragh said.
Regardless, the motion did not affect the defense’s desired outcome. Willis commended the jury for its effort.
“This was a very astute, very sharp jury,” he said. “They were on top of things. They really worked hard, and they got it right.”