Over the summer, a former teenage missionary from Edmond, Oklahoma, was convicted of multiple counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with six children at a Kenyan orphanage.Matthew Lane Durham, now 21, has repeatedly denied sexually abusing the children, and his attorney said that his early confessions were coerced through the threat of keeping his passport and not allowing him to travel back home to the United States.
Now, it seems as if Durham might have some more fuel for his appeal. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has notified a federal judge that United States Attorneys may have committed misconduct in prosecuting the case.
Durham was convicted, in part, by the testimony of a Kenyan doctor who said that five girls the missionary was accused of molesting suffered internal genital injuries. Durham's attorney had already challenged the allegations against his client, saying that the administrator of the children's home failed to get medical attention for the girls immediately after the allegations were made.
Now, says Prater, the federal prosecutors were aware that a local pediatrician disputed the Kenyan doctor's statement regarding the injuries, but prosecutors failed to bring that testimony to light.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney says that the lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Don Gifford II, likely withheld pertinent medical information. Because Gifford contacted Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Gayland Geiger about a defense expert, the Oklahoma County D.A.'s office became aware of a local pediatrician's belief that the girls could not likely have displayed internal genital injuries as a result of sexual abuse--much less 6 weeks after the alleged assaults took place.
Geiger says that he advised the federal prosecutor to call the pediatrician as a rebuttal witness to say that even if there were no physical injuries, that would not mean that no sexual assault took place.
Gifford failed to act on that advise.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney's office is not the only entity citing possible federal misconduct. Durham's attorney says that he is currently investigating "credible information" about inappropriate communication between a federal prosecutor and a journalist covering the trial. This "information" indicates that the prosecutor and the journalist were having an affair, and that he leaked information to her during and after the trial.
If either allegation against federal prosecutors proves to be true, it could have a significant impact on Durham's appeal and completely change the outcome of his case.
Image Credit: Kate Ter Haar