Local News

Wake Prosecutors Will Try Former NCSU Officer, Despite Previous Hung Juries

Posted February 10, 1999

— Despite two hung juries, Wake County has decided to try a campus police officer accused of sexual assault for the third time.

For many people, it is hard to forget the alleged victim's story. She says former N.C. State police officer Pierre Debnam humiliated and degraded her by forcing her to undress and perform a body cavity search.

Prosecutors says they have new evidence that could change the outcome of the third trial.

"Normally after two hung juries, I would really have to re-assess whether to try the case or not," says Frank Jackson, Wake County assistant district attorney. "In fact, I've never tried a case three times before, but in this case factors came to me, and the victim was willing to do another trial and there's new evidence."

Jackson says two women have come forward who say they were also pulled over by Debnam. He says neither was charged, but both were uncomfortable with the ex-officer's actions.

"The evidence will show that she voluntarily exposed her body parts to Officer Debnam," says George Ligon Jr., Debnam's attorney.

Debnam's attorney stands by the defense that led to two mistrials. The prosecutor says with his two new witnesses he can show a pattern of behavior, that could lead to conviction.

"After talking to the jurors in the first two trials, the kind of evidence coming forward to me now is the kind of things they made inquiries about," Jackson said. "So it makes me believe that it won't be the same old trial, but a trial with potentially new evidence."

Debnam's attorney says he wants to make a statement concerning the re-trial, but he did not want to comment Thursday. The new trial should begin sometime in late March or early April.

Another team of attorneys is ready to try the alleged victim's civil suit after the criminal case is over.


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