Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Man accused of killing U. student in June facing charges in separate incident from 2018
SALT LAKE CITY — Attorneys for the man accused of sexually assaulting a woman more than a year before police say he murdered University of Utah student Mackenzie Lueck argued Wednesday their client has a right to compel his one-time date to testify in court.
Lawyers for Ayoola Adisa Ajayi want to put the woman on the stand to probe what they say are discrepancies in her initial discussions with police and a signed, two-page statement she submitted to a judge in lieu of testifying.
“There are important inconsistencies,” Ajayi’s defense attorney, Neal Hamilton, said. “They point against bindover instead of supporting it.”
Third District Judge Vernice Trease has not yet ruled whether the evidence meets the standard of probable cause to bind Ajayi over for trial on charges of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony; and three counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.
Prosecutor Marc Mathis said the woman’s statements don’t conflict and the document that was admitted in court simply distills the facts. He argued the only point of putting the woman on the stand is to attack her credibility, a move he said is fitting at trial but not at the preliminary hearing stage.
“Of course the victim is going to be asked to give as clear and concise information to the court as possible,” he argued.
The woman’s written statement — describing a dinner date at Ajayi’s Salt Lake City home in which he sexually assaulted her and pinned her arms down before she wriggled away — was submitted in court under penalty of perjury, he emphasized.
The document meets the standard of probable cause required for the case to move forward and any further testimony she gives wouldn’t change that, Mathis said.
Utah has long permitted a victim statement instead of testimony at a preliminary hearing. Whether or not a defendant can then summon a victim to the stand, however, has been debated. The Utah Court of Appeals currently is considering the question in a separate case.
A handful of Utah laws appear to conflict on the issue. Ajayi has a right to confront the woman at trial, but not at the current preliminary hearing stage, Mathis said. Yet Ajayi’s attorneys say the law permits him to call witnesses in his defense at both stages.
The woman’s attorney, Laurel Hanks, said Utah’s victim rights law protects her client from harassment like being forced to give unnecessary testimony before trial. She said differences in the statements are explained by the effects of trauma and forcing her client to testify would only serve to traumatize her.
Ajayi, who wore glasses and a yellow jumpsuit, did not speak during the Wednesday hearing. He is separately accused of murdering Lueck and setting fire to her body in June.
Prosecutors said they learned about the assault allegation, which predates Lueck’s death by more than a year, as they …read more
Source:: Deseret News – Utah News