Jury Selection Underway In Trial Of Man Accused Of Raping OU Student

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Jury selection began Thursday in the trial of a Gallipolis man accused of raping an Ohio University student.

Prosecutors expect the jury selection in the case of Levi Canterbury, 22, to last a day and a half and for opening statements to take place Monday.

Canterbury is charged with two counts of rape after allegedly picking up an intoxicated female OU student in September 2011, taking her to a parking lot, raping her and dropping her off near campus. The student had become lost after a party, according to previous Messenger reporting.

“I’m confident we’ll be able to find a jury of impartial citizens,” said Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

Blackburn said the trial is expected to last at least a week after jury selection is complete.

On Tuesday, the judge denied a motion by the prosecution to prohibit Canterbury’s attorney, William Eachus, from using evidence in regards to prior sexual activity by the victim of the alleged rape. Eachus also filed a notice of intent to use evidence, under seal, according to court records.

The evidence and arguments would also be covered under a “rape shield” hearing, but the hearing must be requested at least 72 hours before the trial. A rape shield hearing has not been held in Canterbury’s case.

Eachus unsuccessfully filed for a change of venue in March, in part citing the amount of media attention on the case. Judge L. Alan Goldsberry ruled that Ohio Law required a “good-faith effort” to seat a jury before a change of venue could be granted, according to previous Messenger reports.

The request could be renewed when the court attempts to seat a jury, Goldsberry ruled.

Also in March, a motion in limine was filed asking for a closed hearing to review possible evidence about Canterbury’s prior sexual contacts and the prosecution agreed not to present such testimony.

Eachus also filed a motion to suppress the DNA results from the victim’s underwear. When the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation conducted test on the underwear in October 2011, the DNA of both the victim and Canterbury were found. Additional tests in January 2012 showed only the student’s DNA on the rear of the underwear. In December 2012, trace amounts of semen were found on the outside of the underwear in a third test. Eachus’ motion however was denied last month.

The trial was scheduled to take place in December 2012, but it was announced that Canterbury might enter into a plea agreement with prosecutors. Plea negotiations though broke down and the trial date was postponed.

“We are done negotiating this matter given what has happened, and it will be presented to a jury of 12 who will determine the validity of the state’s charges based on the facts,” Blackburn said in December.