It Happened Again: Baltimore Man Acquitted on Fourth Sexual Assault Charge in Two Years

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Oct. 29 2013 1:03 PM

It Happened Again: Baltimore Man Acquitted on Fourth Sexual Assault Charge in Two Years

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Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Last week I wrote about Nelson Bernard Clifford, a Baltimore man who had been acquitted on three separate sexual assault charges since 2011, and was about to stand trial on a fourth. Each time, the state had DNA evidence linking Clifford to the crime scene, and victims who claimed that Clifford had attacked them in their homes; each time, Clifford took the stand and claimed that the sexual contact was consensual. Clifford appeared confident and poised on the witness stand. His accusers did not, and that apparently made all the difference. In my piece, I noted that the same tactics that helped Clifford beat the rap on the earlier cases could well work to his advantage in this latest trial.

I was right. The Baltimore Sun reports that, on Friday, Clifford was acquitted yet again. As with the other cases, Clifford claimed that the so-called assault had been consensual, and the jury apparently believed him—much to the chagrin and exasperation of the city, which must be wondering exactly what it needs to do to get a conviction. “When evidence is there, Juries need to convict,” the Baltimore police union wrote on Twitter. They’ll have an opportunity to try again: The state’s attorney has refiled charges against Clifford for two alleged sexual assaults from 2007.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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