The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Waco's 10th Court of Appeals was wrong when it overturned the sexual assault conviction of former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu.
The 10th Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in March, 2017 based on 54th State District Judge Matt Johnson's decision to exclude some of the text messages between Ukwuachu and his alleged victim. The Court of Appeals said the trial court abused it's discretion by excluding them.
Ukwuachu was convicted in August, 2015 on one count of sexual assault and sentenced to 180 days in jail. His alleged victim, who was a freshman at Baylor, claimed Ukwuachu raped her at her apartment in 2013. Ukwuachu claimed the sex was consensual.
Ukwuachu's defense argued the excluded text messages, which were sent earlier in the night, would have supported their claim that the sex was consensual. Judge Johnson ruled the text messages were part of a separate conversation and ruled in favor of excluding them.
The 10th Court of Appeals ruled Johnson was wrong to exclude them based on Rule 107, which states when one part of a conversation, in this case a text message, is introduced, the opposing side can introduce another part of the conversation to fully explain the part offered by the opponent.
However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that because it is reasonable to believe the text messages could be either part of one long conversation or separate conversations, Judge Johnson's decision was not an abuse of discretion but rather just one interpretation that was different than the 10th Court of Appeals's interpretation. The high court said just disagreeing with the criminal court's interpretation is not enough for the 10th Court to call Judge Johnson's ruling an abuse of discretion.
The ruling sends the case back to the 10th Court to hear other points of appeal that were not heard in the first appeal.