Former UCSB soccer player Eric Frimpong was denied his motion for retrial on Friday, and will now face sentencing of up to eight years for felony rape today.
Judge Brian Hill denied the motion for retrial following an evidentiary hearing he approved on Feb. 28. During the hearing, the defense cited a number of discrepancies that occurred during the original trial that it felt unjustly influenced the jury’s verdict. Chief among these issues was the testimony of several forensic odontologists who compared dental castings from both Frimpong and the victim’s boyfriend, Benjamin Randall, to a bite mark found on the victim’s cheek.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger claimed that this evidence, omitted from the original trial, would have exonerated his client.
The defense’s dental expert, Dr. Charles Bowers, said the bite mark, when oriented upside-down, looks more like Randall’s dental structure than Frimpong’s, which contradicts the victim’s testimony that the perpetrator attacked her while facing her. The prosecution’s experts, however, argued that the bite mark comparisons were too inconclusive to prove anything, which Hill later agreed with.
“The purpose of this hearing was to see if the expert testimony would prove that another trial was necessary,” Hill said. “In my mind, this testimony is not tremendously compelling, in terms of the overall evidence against Mr. Frimpong. Nobody could say that he was the biter, but nobody could say that [the evidence] excluded him.”
Additional issues raised in the defense’s motion related to individual jury members and alleged inconsistencies during the jury’s deliberations. During the course of the trial, prior to issuing the verdict, one jury member was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, a circumstance which the defense claims should have resulted in that juror’s dismissal.
Other factors included the allegation that the jurors felt pressured to make a quick decision because of one juror’s upcoming vacation plans and the fact that one juror’s mother became terminally ill during the deliberations.
Moreover, the document claimed that during deliberations, the jury got to reread the victim’s testimony but did not get to rehear a recorded conversation between investigators and Frimpong. Per court procedure, the jury is only provided evidence they specifically request.
“We are not accusing the court of doing anything to deliberately shortcut things,” Sanger said. “This is this man’s entire life … Did Mr. Frimpong get a fair trial here? With all of the things together, I think he did not.”
The judge addressed each of these issues individually, concluding that none provided a sufficient basis for a new trial.
“In this trial, and in every trial, nobody can interfere with what [the jury does] back in the deliberation room,” Hill said. “There’s only so much we can do to encourage the court to take their time and not rush the deliberation.”
The judge will issue Frimpong’s sentence at a hearing scheduled for 2 p.m. today in Dept. 2 of the Santa Barbara County Court House.