He Was Found Dead in His Cell. Then Came the Good News

Roger Largent's conviction overturned 4 days after his death
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 17, 2017 11:33 AM CST
His Rape Conviction Was Tossed—Days After His Murder
This undated photo provided by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office shows Roger Lee Largent in Hagerstown, Md. Largent’s rape conviction was overturned Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, four days after he was found slain in a state prison cell.    (Uncredited)

Roger Largent will never get a chance to clear his name in the rape of a disabled woman: He was found beaten to death in his prison cell four days before a court tossed his conviction. Authorities suspect Largent's cellmate in the slaying, but they have not cited a motive or filed charges in the Saturday attack. On Wednesday, a Maryland appeals court threw out Largent's conviction and said he should get a new trial because the jury verdict last year hinged largely on a prosecution witness' improper testimony. The assault happened in 2015 when Largent went to the mentally disabled woman's house to give her and her blind husband a ride to a doctor's appointment. The woman testified that Largent walked up behind her, covered her mouth, and raped her in the kitchen while her husband was upstairs.

At trial, assistant public defender Amy Taylor suggested that the woman made the rape allegation because she felt guilty about being unfaithful. Largent initially denied having sex with the woman, a family member in her late 40s, then said it was consensual. Taylor noted that the accuser did not have any bruises or scratches. That made the testimony of the nurse who examined the woman, Ashley Hall, crucial to the case. Hall testified that a woman can be raped but show no bruising or other physical signs of an assault. Although Hall was trained in the examination of sexual assault victims, prosecutors did not seek to qualify her as an expert, and the trial court "abused its discretion in permitting Ms. Hall to offer a lay opinion," the ruling said, per the AP. "He was going to get this fair trial and now he's been deprived of that opportunity," says Taylor. (More retrial stories.)

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