A group of community members have donated money to hire a new lawyer to defend former Beaverton, Ore., police Officer Christopher Warren against a charge of raping a 5-year-old girl with a pencil.
Earlier this month, Warren was granted a new trial in Clark County Superior Court after a juror came forward and admitted to reading an article by The Columbian about the case during the trial in October. Juror Craig Bowen admitted that the content of the article influenced his decision to find Warren guilty and that he later had misgivings about his role in the unanimous verdict.
Vancouver attorney Louis Byrd Jr. and Portland attorney Ernest Warren, who is Christopher Warren’s first cousin, once removed, represented the defendant during the first trial.
A court motion by Vancouver attorney Jon McMullen states that Warren “has advised Mr. Byrd that he no longer desires to be represented by him and wants to seek new counsel.”
McMullen said the donors, who wish to be anonymous, requested him specifically to defend Warren. The lawyer declined to reveal the identities of the donors or the amount of money raised so far.
However, Warren’s supporters operate a website — “Truth Be Told: The Real Story Behind Wrongful Accusation” — where they seek donations “to assist in my legal defense in a case to prove my innocence.”
Warren’s dad, Larry Warren, said the donation came as a surprise.
Warren’s second trial is scheduled for Feb. 9 in front of Judge Barbara Johnson. McMullen has requested a delay in order to have time to review evidence and audio recordings and transcripts of the first trial and make other preparations.
The judge is scheduled to consider his request at a hearing on Monday.
Meanwhile, Warren remains in the Clark County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.
“He’s holding up,” Larry Warren said. “His hopes are up. … I know that all of these allegations are totally false, and it’s just unfortunate that an innocent person can be put through the ringer. I totally don’t understand.”
Christopher Warren was convicted Oct. 31 following a four-day trial during which the alleged victim testified on the stand. The jury deliberated for more than six hours before reaching its verdict.
During closing arguments, Byrd claimed that Christopher Warren’s ex-wife, Dina Sanchez, coached the girl into making the rape allegations because she was bitter over his decision to divorce her and to be with another woman.
Warren had recently become engaged to former high school classmate Meliah Colon at the time the allegations were made.
Byrd said there were several inconsistencies in the information the girl gave to authorities, which should present reasonable doubt.
For example, the girl said she never told Sanchez about the abuse, yet Sanchez initially reported the crime to authorities, Byrd said.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield argued that the girl’s account was consistent throughout the investigation and trial. She said footage of a forensic interview of the girl in May 2013 at the Clark County Children’s Justice Center also showed that the girl wasn’t coached or influenced to claim that Christopher Warren raped her.