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Story Archives: 'Lessons learned' during rape trial
|'Lessons learned' during rape trial|
Fifth District Attorney William R. "Billy" Coenen and his staff have had a few days to reflect on "lessons learned" from a four-day trial last week that convicted a Winnsboro man of three counts of aggravated rape.
"When a jury stays out less than 30 minutes to return a verdict in a case that involves a high level of scientific testimony, it shows they understand the complexities," said Coenen Monday.
On Friday, a jury convicted 48-year-old Wyatt L. Morgan of sexually assaulting three elderly women, one each in 1995, 2000 and 2003 in Franklin Parish. Those attacked were age 68 and two were 89 at the time.
In the trial, which resembled the script of a made for television movie, DNA evidence and the coordination of efforts between different law enforcement agencies were important.
"This is the fourth or fifth case we've had involving DNA evidence," Coenen said, "and this shows that our staff has become very knowledgeable about how to get this evidence across to a jury.
"In the past 32 years that I've been involved," the DA said, "this is the most significant in terms of solving a crime which would be considered a cold case.
"Without the DNA and the coordination between agencies, this case would still be unsolved," he speculated.
Morgan, who has been held in the Franklin Parish Detention Center since his arrest by the Franklin Parish Sheriff's office in April, 2007, will be sentenced by Fifth District Judge Terry Doughty on July 7.
After Morgan was arrested in another parish on a different charge, DNA was taken under state law that requires such samples. During the trial, prosecuted by Coenen and Assistant District Attorney Johnny Boothe, the DNA evidence was compared with that taken at the crime scenes.
Morgan's arrest was precipitated by matching DNA in a database of unknown profiles within the Combined DNA Index System or CODIS.
State law requires a sentence of life without the possibility of parole upon conviction of aggravated rape.
Each of the three victims were attacked while alone in their residences late at night.
Coenen said the extent of cooperation leading to trial was instrumental in the case.
He said Franklin Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy Tim Pylant investigated each case, laying the groundwork for the eventual prosecution.
Many medical personnel were involved in the treatment of victims and the collection of evidence that led to the DNA match, he said.
Louisiana State Police forensic scientists Pat Lane and Julia Naylor, along with North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory forensic scientists Kendall Stracener and Mary Dukes, performed the analyses that ultimately revealed the DNA matches with the defendant.
District Attorney Investigator Wyatt Lobrano complies the evidence and laid the structure for the case presentation, Coenen said.
Morgan continues to be held in the parish detention center pending sentencing.