ury recommends three life sentences in addition to two 10 and 20-year sentences
John Michael Hensley walked from the Carter County District Courthouse Tuesday in clothes that had been bought for his rape and sodomy trial. And those clothes may be the last non-prison issued clothes he will ever wear again.
Around noon, a jury found Hensley guilty on two counts of first degree rape by force or fear and five counts of sodomy. The jury recommended a life sentence for each of the two rape charges and another life sentence for he last count of sodomy. The jury also recommended sentences of 10 years for two of the sodomy counts and sentences of 20 years for the other two sodomy counts. Hensley must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence handed down. Sentencing will be at 9 a.m., Dec. 11 in the courtroom of District Judge Dennis Morris.
“I want to express my sincere gratitude to the jury that served on this case,” District Attorney Craig Ladd said. “Cases like this are very difficult for jurors to hear, but despite the unpleasant subject matter of this case, the jury was very attentive. Their verdicts and recommended sentences were certainly supported by the extremely aggravating nature of the evidence presented. In my opinion, their recommended sentences reflect a couple of things: the crimes committed by the defendant were especially heinous and the defendant is a very dangerous man.
“In addition to evidence heard by the jury, it is worth noting that the defendant has prior felony convictions for aggravated assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.”
Witnesses provided testimony throughout Monday, leaving Tuesday morning for final arguments and the jury’s instructions. Ladd recalled the testimony of witnesses including that of the victim.
Ladd asked the jury, what would the victim have had to gain from not telling the truth and asked the jury members to consider how embarrassing it would have been for them to be on the stand detailing their last consensual sexual experience.
“What on earth would compel someone to go through what the victim went through,” Ladd asked.
Ladd said the most compelling evidence was the details of his testimony and recalled there was corroboration through the testimony of Johnny Gilbert, who was an inmate at the time Hensley sexually assaulted the victim. Gilbert testified he had pulled Hensley off of the victim during an assault.
Ladd also said circumstances of Hensley’s prior assault and battery conviction were similar and asked the jury why should we care an inmate was raped.
“We should care,” he said. “He is a victim. He came into a courtroom and accepted responsibility for his crime.”
Ladd said it was not part of the deal that that the victim should suffer sexual assaults and rape by Hensley.
“He was doing his time,” Ladd said. “Sharing a cell with John Hensley is not part of the deal. He (Hensley) is a dangerous man. He is a predator and that is why you should care.”
Defense attorney Jason May questioned whether the state had met the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that it was rape. May noted there was a third inmate in the cell during the acts of sodomy and details were changed from time to time during the testimony. The attorney also said there was no action caught on camera nor was there evidence, just testimony.
In Ladd’s final statement, he directed the jury’s focus toward a letter the victim had written him from jail, describing the assaults and asking for help.
“We have an opportunity to keep him off the streets for a long time,” Ladd told the jury.