Jones trial: opening statements now underway

The third-degree sexual assault trial of former Gophers football player Dominic Jones continued Wednesday with opening statements.

Hennepin County Judge Marilyn Rosenbaum heard last-minute motions filed by the defense regarding hearsay testimony of former Gophers football player Alex Daniels, and also addressed her decision to hold a closed hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Jury selection was finished early in the afternoon. Five women and nine men comprise the 14-person jury.

The defense and prosecution were each given five and three strikes, respectively, during jury selection. Rosenbaum excused some jurors for reasons ranging from sexual assault ties to concerns about the explicit nature of the case.

Lawyers for Laquisha Malone, the friend of the alleged victim who brought her to the apartment of former Gophers football players Robert McField, E.J. Jones, Keith Massey and Daniels, petitioned to have Malone give her testimony by video deposition.

Fourth District public defender Craig Boone and local private attorney F. Clayton Tyler presented evidence of Malone’s severe anxiety and acrophobia disorders.

Rosenbaum questioned the legitimacy of Malone’s medical records and the timing of the motion. If called, Malone’s testimony will take place in a third-floor courtroom to accommodate her fear of heights.

Gray contested the original motion, and stated although a letter entered into evidence from her physician states Malone has battled these problems for two years, she “obviously” didn’t suffer from them on the evening of the alleged incident.

Jurors were sworn in prior to opening statements, and given their official legal instructions by Rosenbaum.

Because of Rosenbaum’s exclusion of details of the complainant’s sexual behavior prior to Jones’ alleged conduct, Gray was limited in his opening statements and appeared to lack the courtroom finesse he’s known for.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Marlene Senechal delivered the prosecution’s opening statements, which recapped the events that took place on April 3-4, 2007 – excluding the alleged prior sexual conduct – and the investigation that followed.

Senechal described the cell phone video of the alleged rape, and told jurors they’d see Jones ejaculate near the woman’s head and evidence of her unconscious state.

The state’s expert on drug- and alcohol-facilitated sexual assault, Stephen Smith, estimated the alleged victim’s blood alcohol content when she had contact with Jones to be 0.36 or 0.31 percent.

Gray has previously contested Smith’s testimony, because it’s an estimate, not results of medical tests.

Smith testified in court documents that at the time of the alleged rape, the woman would’ve been in a stupor or a coma, and wouldn’t have been able to give or withdraw consent.

Gray countered this point in his narrative of the night’s events, when he stated that the alleged victim was conscious and visiting with Daniels and Jones when she requested that Jones “make it rain” on her face.

Gray’s opening statements were largely based on the fact that the cell phone video doesn’t show penetration. He also noted that the statements given by McField changed from McField’s initial interview with investigators.

“The only evidence they have is a convicted felon who’s changed his mind twice,” Gray said in his opening statement.

McField had been arrested with charges pending for armed robbery during his senior year of high school, and was convicted in fall 2006. At the time of the alleged events, he was in Minneapolis awaiting sentencing by St. Louis courts. He’s currently serving a 12-year sentence.

Gray said the alleged victim laughed with Jones and Daniels immediately following the ejaculation, and also the next morning with Malone about the previous night’s events.

Although Gray couldn’t mention, as reported in court documents, that the alleged victim had had sex with the three other former players, he mentioned nine condoms found in a search of the University Village apartment – none of which contained a definitive match to Jones’ DNA.

The first witnesses will be called Thursday, and the trial is expected to last no more than two weeks.

Gray, in accordance with Rosenbaum’s gag order issued Tuesday, wouldn’t comment on the trial, except to say Jones is expected to testify early next week.

Jones’ family, who attended the trial Wednesday, wouldn’t comment on the proceedings.

Emma Carew is a senior staff reporter. Andrew Cummins contributed to this report.