Jury finds UNC assault suspect guilty

November 19, 2008 8:31:29 AM PST
A jury found Michael Lewis guilty Tuesday evening of tying up and robbing three UNC football players in December.

The jury began deliberations around noon Tuesday after hearing from all three players over the past few days.

In closing arguments, the prosecutor in the Michael Lewis trial acknowledged that three UNC football players behaved badly, but argued such behavior, which included drunkenness, did not justify what allegedly happened to them.

"Maybe you find their behavior was reprehensible," Prosecutor Morgan Whitney told the jury of 10 women and 2 men. "But none of that justifies or excuses Mr. Lewis having tied them up and then ransacked their apartment to steal some of their stuff."

Prior to the closing, the prosecution replayed a videotaped interview with Chapel Hill police from last December in which Lewis confessed that he planned to steal electronics from the players and admitted to biting a police officer as he tried to flee the scene. On tape, he denied holding the players against their will, tying them up or wielding a knife.

Lewis' attorney, Russell Hollers, chose not to call any witnesses in his client's defense. During closing arguments, Hollers tried to instill in jurors a reasonable doubt as to the players' stories. He pointed out a number of inconsistencies between the players' stories and between what they said during the trial and during previous court appearances.

"If they can't be sure, y'all can't be sure," Hollers said. Hollers argued it was odd, and perhaps questionable, that the players' stories of what happened the morning of December 17, 2007, actually became more detailed with time.

Memories are funny things. It's not like a videotape."

"Memories are staked by what we hear later, what we see later," Hollers told jurors. "You notice these three men, their stories got more elaborate, not less elaborate."

Hollers also questioned why the prosecution didn't present any concrete evidence to prove that the knife Lewis allegedly used to threaten two of the players was in fact tied to the defendant. Hollers pointed out the prosecution never offered evidence that the knife had been tested for fingerprints.


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