Appeals court judge under fire for ordering new rape trial

A state Court of Appeals judge has come under fire from Fayette County prosecutors for ordering a new trial for a man convicted of raping a woman with Down syndrome.

Judge Christopher McFadden overturned the jury’s guilty verdicts against William Jeffrey Dumas, who was convicted of repeatedly raping the 24-year-old woman on Oct. 18, 2010.

McFadden issued the ruling on a request for new trial after he had sentenced Dumas to 25 years in prison for the alleged assault. At the time, McFadden had been allowed to take leave of his appellate court duties and preside temporarily as a Superior Court judge in Fayette County.

Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard, who prosecuted the case, said Wednesday he received the news of McFadden’s order with “disgust.”

“I had to go visit the Down syndrome woman who was the victim of the rape and tell her that even though a jury had convicted her assailant of the crime, the judge was giving the guy a new trial,” Ballard said. “Her parents were, as you can image, outraged. … I just hope we can get some justice.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, McFadden said judicial ethics do not allow him to give any public comments about a case that is pending before him because they may affect the case’s outcome or could interfere with a fair trial or hearing.

“I cannot go beyond my written orders,” McFadden said. “The Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits me from commenting further.”

In his ruling, McFadden said when the woman first complained about being attacked the day after the alleged rape occurred, she did not behave like a victim. “Nor did Mr. Dumas behave like someone who had recently perpetrated a series of violent crimes,” McFadden wrote.

McFadden also cited discrepancies in other witnesses’ testimony. The convictions, the judge added, “do not have the approval of the court’s mind and conscience.”

The District Attorney’s Office has since filed a motion asking McFadden to recuse himself from the case. The motion noted that trial testimony established that Dumas’ semen was found on the bed on which the woman slept the night of the alleged attack and that a doctor who examined the woman had made findings that were consistent she had been forcibly raped.

On Feb. 5, McFadden denied the prosecution’s motion and said he would remain on the case.

Ballard said he is now appealing that decision to the same appeals court on which McFadden sits. “How awkward is that?” Ballard asked.

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