Jury acquits former police officer in child rape case

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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Judge Robert Lewis’ courtroom erupted into cheers this afternoon after a jury returned a not-guilty verdict in the child rape trial of Vancouver resident Christopher R. Warren.

Warren and his attorney, Jon McMullen, embraced while sitting at the defense counsel table. His family members in the audience also tearfully turned and hugged and kissed one another.

The jury acquitted the former Beaverton, Ore., police officer after deliberating for about six hours over two days. It reached its decision about noon today.

Warren, 35, was accused of using a pencil to rape a 5-year-old girl in April 2013 at his central Vancouver home. Under law, rape isn’t limited to intercourse and can include penetration with an object.

Warren had been convicted on the charge Oct. 31 after a four-day Superior Court trial, in which the jury had deliberated for about the same amount of time. The conviction was thrown out, however, after a juror later came forward and admitted to reading a story about the case in The Columbian during the trial, against the judge’s instructions. Warren was granted a new trial in January.

“We are overwhelmingly happy that the jury found him not guilty,” McMullen said after the verdict. “We have believed in the innocence of Christopher Warren since we chose to take his case.”

In both trials, the defense argued that Warren’s ex-wife, Dina Sanchez, coached the girl into making false sexual abuse allegations. McMullen said Sanchez made up the story because she was bitter about Warren remarrying. He said she was also angry because an Oregon court had awarded Warren primary custody of their three children.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield argued there was no evidence to support the claims of revenge. She said that although Warren had primary custody, the parents shared an even amount of custody time with their children. She described their parenting arrangement as being amicable.

Banfield told the jury that the girl’s story was too detailed to have been fabricated and that it’s stayed consistent since the beginning. She argued that the defense was using the custody battle theory as a distraction.

McMullen said there was a lack of physical evidence to corroborate the girl’s story, and it didn’t add up. The alleged abuse reportedly occurred in Warren’s living room while his current wife, Meliah Colon, was making dinner in an adjoining kitchen. He said Colon never reported seeing or hearing anything suspicious.

Several of Warren’s family members attended the weeklong trial to show their support. Some had testified during the trial, including Colon.

The family declined to comment on the outcome of the case.

Banfield said in an interview after the verdict that it was a difficult case.

“We accept the verdict of the jury, just like we accepted the verdict of the jury last time,” she said. “The best we can do is present the evidence in a professional manner and then let the jury, which is made up of members of our community, decide.”

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