After more than three hours of deliberations — which included a brief intermission where the judge repeated jury instructions after the jury appeared to reach an impasse and ordered them back into deliberations — jurors found Dwight Burley, Jr., 22, of Ardmore, guilty of first degree rape.
Prior to closing statements, the state’s final witness testified about the results of the sexual assault kit performed on Burley’s victim after the assault.
The witness, from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations, said the results returned two DNA samples — a major and a minor. The major matched Burley, which the witness said indicated a “high concentration” of the sample. The second sample was labeled as minor and was untestable, which Assistant District Attorney Melissa Handke later clarified during her closing
argument.
In closing, Handke reiterated the events of the night Burley returned to the home of a woman he knew to be intoxicated to the point of vomiting.
“You don’t have to decide who snuck into her home and had sex with her,” Handke told jurors. “The defendant said it was him. His DNA was found inside of her.”
Handke then asked the jurors to decide if they believed the victim’s statement that she was unaware of the act, that she had blacked out and didn’t remember the assault.
“He knew how drunk she was, he told (APD) Officer (Landon) Gary how drunk she was,” Handke said. “She had no idea what was happening. Consent cannot be given by someone under the effects of intoxication.”
Defense Attorney Kimberly Tressler agreed with Handke that her client admitted to having intercourse with the victim, but disputed her claim of being “unconscious” at the time.
“She wasn’t that drunk,” Tressler said. “She did throw up, asked for pie, but she was awake, she never passed out.”
Tressler called into question statements from Gary that accused Burley’s girlfriend of changing her story, before implying that the victim was trying to hide her own infidelity from her partner.
“Even if she blacked out, how was Burley supposed to know,” Tressler said.
Handke echoed Tressler’s comments about credibility, though she directed her comments toward Burley’s girlfriend.
“She did not want to testify,” Handke said. “She doesn’t want him to go to jail and has every reason to change her story.”
Handke made a final impassioned appeal before resting her case.
“He knew,” Handke said. “He found a passed out, half undressed woman that reeked of vomit and he left her passed out naked in the bed before letting himself out. This was not drunk sex, not a hookup.”
Ultimately, the jury agreed with Handke, finding Burley guilty of first degree rape and recommending a sentence of five years in prison.
District Attorney Craig Ladd said, “On behalf of the victim, her family and our office, I want to offer my sincere thanks to the jury for their service in this trial.  Serving as a juror on a case of this nature is especially difficult so I applaud them for their willingness to participate in the process and render a verdict supported by the evidence.  We also appreciate Detective Gary’s investigative efforts and accessibility throughout the trial, and trial preparation stage, to help with the prosecution of this matter.  Finally, I want to express my gratitude to Assistant District Attorney Melissa Handke for the exemplary manner in which she prosecuted this case.”