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W.Va. high court to review sex assault case

February 03, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Sentencing for a Martinsburg man convicted last year of raping a 15-year-old girl was not held as planned Monday because the West Virginia Supreme Court is reviewing the case and because the man's attorneys asked that he undergo a mental evaluation.

In November, a jury found Jason Lee Caton, 23, guilty on two counts of second-degree sexual assault.

After the verdict, Caton's attorneys, Chief Public Defender Deborah Lawson and William DeHaven, requested that the state Supreme Court justices look over the case. They argued that two other women Caton is charged with assaulting should not have been permitted to testify at the November trial.

The Supreme Court agreed to review the case and will listen to oral arguments later this month, Lawson said. She said she does not know when the justices will issue a decision.

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Although the trial in November centered on allegations that Caton raped the then-15-year-old on Feb. 5, 2002, two women who alleged they were assaulted by Caton also testified.

Caton has not yet been tried in connection with those allegations.

One of those women testified she was 12 years old when she was sexually assaulted on Aug. 30, 2001. The other, in her 20s, said in court that Caton made her perform sexual acts on him on April 20, 2002.

Circuit Court Judge David Sanders should not have allowed either of the other two women to testify, Lawson argued. "We disagree rather strongly with that (decision)," she said.

She called it the flip side of the rule that a woman's past sexual history has no bearing on allegations that she was raped. A person should only be convicted on his actions, not because he may be "a bad guy," Lawson said.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Caton, his convictions related to the case involving the 15-year-old girl could be overturned.

Also Monday, Lawson renewed a previous request that Caton undergo a 60-day evaluation at Huttonsville (W.Va.) Correctional Center.

After a probation officer told Sanders that a three-week wait exists to get into the program, Sanders agreed that Caton should be evaluated.

The complete psychological and psychiatric evaluation will assist Sanders in sentencing and could affect Caton's status as a sex offender, Lawson said.

Whether a person is determined to be a sexual predator or not influences where and for how long that person must register as a convicted sexual offender, Lawson said.

According to testimony during the trial, semen found on the 15-year-old girl's underwear matched Caton's DNA.

Lt. Brent Myers, supervisor of West Virginia State Police Crime Lab's biochemistry section, said the semen had to come from Caton or, if he had one, his identical twin brother. The chance of it coming from someone else was one in 11.2 quadrillion, he said.

Conviction on a charge of second-degree sexual assault carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

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