On December 5, 2013, the Mid-South was prepping for the possibility of severe weather, but in a courtroom in the Criminal Justice Center, a jury was deciding the fate of accused rapist Jerald Jefferson.
It took jurors only 37 minutes to come back with a guilty verdict.
Now Jefferson’s lawyer says jurors were thinking more about the weather than the case that day.
“The jury was clearly concerned about the weather and it may have reflected in their decision to render a verdict in such a short time frame,” said Charles Walden, Jefferson’s attorney.
In court Thursday, Jerald Jefferson’s attorney asked the judge to give his client a new trial, based on an excessive 25 year sentence and inconsistencies from the rape victim.
In 2002, the 16-year-old victim said three men abducted her from Trezevant High School, put a pillowcase over her head, drove her to another location and repeatedly raped her.
They later dumped her out of the vehicle naked on South Third.
That victim, now 28, talked to WREG after learning the rape kit she submitted was tested two years after the crime.
Jefferson’s attorney also argued Jefferson has become the poster child for the non-testing of rape kits in Memphis, since the victim’s kit in this case was not tested for two years.
It wasn’t until 2010 – nine years after the crime, that Jefferson was arrested for aggravated assault, his DNA was run through the database, and a match was made.
“I think it’s a shame. Every rape, whether you are 5 or 50, should be the number one priority,” the rape victim told us.
In 2002, a 16-year-old girl said she was leaving Trezevant High School when she was kidnapped by three men.
The victim said the men forced her into a car, put a pillowcase over her head, drove her to South Memphis, and raped her.
“She was taken to the sexual assault rape crisis center. A physical examination was done. A kit was collected and that kit stayed on a shelf,” said Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich in December 2013.
Eventually, the kit was tested, among others, with a federal grant.
When denying the new trial, Judge Lee Coffee said there as no evidence the jury was compromised, no other evidence of how Jefferson’s sperm got into the victim and Jefferson deserved more than a 25 year sentence he received.
Coffee went on to this was a crime against humanity and the proof was overwhelming.
“Had he been arrested, had those kits been analyzed, Mr. Jefferson would not have been walking the streets of Shelby County, Tennessee,” said Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee.
The judge wasn’t buying the weather impact on the jury.
“This court will affirm the verdict that the jury reached in this case,” said Judge Coffee.
At the sentencing hearing in January, Judge Coffee lashed out at Jefferson and the lack of rape kit testing.
A new attorney has been appointed for Jefferson and he can appeal the trial denial.