Illegal immigrant convicted of rape though DNA does not implicate him
DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -It took a Houston County jury only seven minutes to find an illegal immigrant guilty of molesting a Dothan teenager though he had previously been cleared on dozens of related charges.
“It’s a shocker,” is how defense attorney Billy Joe Sheffield II reacted, asking a judge to repeat that verdict against Emiliano Rodriguez to make sure he had heard correctly.
What perplexes Sheffield is how a jury could reach that unanimous decision without a shred of tangible evidence linking Rodriguez to the 15-year-old girl, an acquaintance.
Originally facing 35 sex charges involving that alleged victim, a grand jury dismissed all but one because forensics did not match Rodriguez, who is 43.
DNA also did not link him to the final charge, but prosecutors pursued that case after his indictment on a second-degree rape allegation.
In closing arguments on Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Mark Johnson urged the jury to not dwell on the lack of forensic evidence but to, instead, consider the totality of the case.
He believes testimony from medical experts swayed jurors but, in his opinion, the most convincing testimony came from the victim.
“She stood up there and faced down the person that did this to her,” Johnson said.
Sheffield, who has a history of getting not guilty verdicts, said he has considered that Rodriguez’ nationality and immigration status may have played into the verdict.
“That is something you would have to ask jurors about,” he told News 4.
However, District Attorney Pat Jones believes the key was Johnson’s organized presentation.
“(He) explained the case to the jury in a way they could understand, " said Jones, who also credits work by Dothan police investigator Chris Thompson.
Rodriguez faces 20 years when Judge Kevin Moulton sentences him and will likely be deported back to Mexico after completing that sentence.
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