National News

Vanderbilt rape case: Closing arguments underway in Brandon Banks trial

Posted June 22

— The state and the defense are both trying to persuade the jury during their closing arguments in the trial for a former Vanderbilt football player accused of rape.

The defendant, Brandon Banks, is charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery.

Closing arguments began around 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

Assistant Jan Norman replayed portions of the graphic videos and pictures of the assault to the jury to prove Brandon Banks is guilty. Norman also reminded jurors about the definition of duress, which is important because this plays into Banks' legal argument for his defense.

Norman argued that since Banks was able to leave the dorm room where the assault happened at any time, he was not in any "imminent" danger and that he could not use duress as a defense.

Defense attorney Mark Scruggs claims that Banks could not leave the room for many factors, citing bullying from his teammates and the pressure to remain loyal to the Vanderbilt football team.

Deputy District Attorney Roger Moore is handling the second part of the state's closing argument, which began just after 1 p.m.

The defense team called two witnesses, both former Vanderbilt teammates, to the stand on Thursday morning. There was some debate about what those witnesses could say in front of the jury. The questions ended up being about Banks' reputation on the football team.

The state called two rebuttal witnesses. One of them was Detective Chad Gish, who testified that he did not see any threatening or intimidating messages sent to Banks during his search of all four co-defendants' cellphones.

Banks testified on Wednesday. During his testimony, he described a situation where he was intimidated and bullied to participate in the 2013 gang rape of an unconscious female student. He told the courtroom his fears stemmed from his then-teammates thinking he was gay.

On Wednesday, the victim took the witness stand for a fourth time in this case in hopes of sending all of her accused rapists to prison. She told the jury that the only person she knew before the assault was Brandon Vandenburg, who was convicted of rape last year.

The victim was in the courtroom on Thursday morning. She did appear a little emotional but kept her composure.

Cory Batey has also been tried and convicted. The fourth co-defendant, Jaborian McKenzie, is out on bond.

After closing arguments wrap up, the jury will receive their instructions and will begin deliberations.

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