CLEVELAND — On the same day that new Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was introduced to the media, 3News spoke to legal experts about the hurdles he faces in the future.
Specifically, we wanted to know about the grand jury process Watson has gone through thus far amid allegations of sexual misconduct, plus the responses the Browns organization gave about their own investigation.
The grand jury is the first group of people who must decide whether there is probable cause that a person committed a felony. Of the 22 allegations against Watson, a grand jury failed to indict nine cases in Harris County, Texas. A separate grand jury reached the same decision on a case in Brazoria County, Texas.
"After seeing that from two separate grand juries, my belief is that there actually isn’t enough evidence legally speaking for these cases to go forward with criminal charges," says Michael Gabelman, attorney at law.
Gabelman says the grand jury process is often considered the easy part for the prosecution as there is a much lower standard to charge someone than there would be to get a conviction down the road. Case Western Reserve University law professor Ayesha Bell Hardaway concurs, but adds that it also dependds on how the evidence is presented.
"The testimony and the evidence presented by the police and the prosecutors was not enough for the grand jury to say that there was probable cause that the individual committed a crime," she says.
Despite that, there's still reason for Watson to avoid the subject in public, as more evidence could be presented at a later time. "Those who are suspected of crimes certainly want to do everything that they can to protect their Fifth Amendment rights," Bell Hardaway adds.
The Browns organization also explained why they didn't reach out to the accusers or their attorneys, saying they didn't want to interfere in the criminal investigation.
"You don’t want to be in a position where what you’re doing might be construed as tampering with witnesses, trying to get them to change their story," advises Gabelman.
Bell Hardaway says reputation could play a role also.
"The NFL has been criticized for the manner and the tone of the questions that were posed to some of the women who were in fact interviewed," she says.
The only thing we can be certain of is that there's not enough evidence in either direction for any of us to be certain. We're all relying on second-hand accounts. We don't kjnow what was presented to the grand jury, which leaves us all to rely on emotion..something that is different for each one of us.
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