THIS IS AN OPINION PIECE AND DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF ANY OTHER MEMBER OF THE INSIDERS REPORT.
As we reported in early June, the sexual assault case against Robert Whaley, who had signed a National Letter of Intent with Missouri, ended in a mistrial.
Here's what we reported then:
"Berrien County Judge John Fields declared the mistrial after jurors told him they had deliberated nearly 20 hours without being able to reach a verdict. Whaley was accused of forcing a 13-year old girl to have sex with him this past Thanksgiving morning at his family's mobile home in Berrien County's Benton Township. Assistant prosecutor Caryn Hebets told a local radio station that decision on whether or not to retry Whaley should be made within two week.
Defense attorney Tat Parish said the case was "so strong for the defense, it's so much a "one person's word against another' ... The fact is that reasonable doubt in this case is shown by the mere fact that a jury of 12 people couldn't agree after this long and this hard and this fine an effort to try to agree." (Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium)Yesterday, Dan Wetzel of CBS Sportsline reported that, "The prosecutor's office of Berrien County (Mich.) has decided not to retry ....Whaley."
Whaley was one of the top prospects last summer. A 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward, he averaged 17.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.2 blocks, 3.2 assists and 3.1 steals per game as junior at Benton Harbor (MI) High School. He was averaging 18.2 points and 8.0 rebounds before being suspended after the charges were filed against him.
Missouri released Whaley from the NLI following the June 2 court order so he is now free to pursue a number of options from signing on with a new college program, or taking a year at a prep school, or.....
In cases like this, this reporter, believes it is important to remember that unlike the judicial systems in other parts of the world, anyone accussed of a crime in the U.S.A. is presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law. The county has judged that guilt was unlikely to be established based on the facts presented in court and therefore dropped the charges. Deciding not to pursue prosecution of a case is an everyday occurance in every municipality throughout this nation. So this decision is not unusual; the fame of the accused is what has made it newsworthy.
As a nation we rely on criminal and civil processes established over the years that seem to provde the best chance for fair and effective results. No system is perfect, but the United States version has stood the test of time pretty well.
Lest there be comparisions to cases with questionable verdicts, this was not a jury nullification decision. Evidence which established a fact beyond doubt was not ignored. There was in fact evidence that left substantial doubt that this crime has occurred as alleged. It's a huge factor in any so-called "A said, B said" case.
We will go through life with questions that may never be answered, where the absolute truth can not be know. The juidicial system tries to help us deal with these gray areas. So we can move on.
Rest assured, Robert Whaley will always have this unproven charge on his record; the press coverage (including my reports) have guaranteed that. But it is up to this young man to guide his life into the next chapter.
One route could make this case a piece of trivia that has little bearing on his entire career. Another could result in the opposite. Where to go at that fork in the road (or the five-corners intersection) is this young man's current decision.
He deserves the opportunity to make those choices, and hopefully with a lot of guidance and support. At my age, I definitely need the help of others. A 19-year old is no different in that need though he does have less personal experience to fall back onto.