Scenes From The Courtroom
Jury begins deliberations in rape trial against SMU student Donald Cuba
UPDATE 1:25 p.m. Wednesday: Cuba was found not guilty.
Jury deliberations began late Wednesday morning in the sexual assault case against SMU student Donald Cuba, following closing arguments by Dallas County prosecutors Kendall Castello and Cresta Garland and defense attorney Robert Udashen.
Before closing arguments began, prosecutors asked for lesser charges of unlawful restraint and simple assault to be added. Judge Susan Hawk did not allow it.
“It’s either all or nothing here,” Hawk said.
Cuba, 21, is accused of raping a fellow SMU student, referred to as Jan Doe, on February 10, 2012. Doe said that Cuba forced her down onto a dorm bed and penetrated her against her will. Cuba did not testify in his own defense.
During two days of testimony, about a dozen SMU students took the stand and recounted their memories of a drunken night in a freshman dorm. Many of the students who testified were affiliated with Cuba’s fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha.
Several times, the judge admonished the courtroom for rowdy behavior.
“I know emotions are high in this case, but no nudging each other, no snickering, no talking,” Hawk said.
Speaking to the jury, Dallas County prosecutor Kendall Castello said that the case against Cuba wasn’t perfect, but nothing ever is.
He said issues about alcohol and making out were distractions to the charge of sexual assault.
“Whether Jan Doe drank earlier that night is not what this case is about,” Castello said. “Who she kissed is not what this case is about.”
Several students testified that they saw Doe in compromising situations with a student named Paul Eager on the night in question. No one witnessed anything more than flirting between Doe and Cuba.
Castello questioned why Doe would throw away her social status and jeopardize her future at SMU for a lie.
“Why would she sacrifice it all to make up a story against this man?” Castello asked. “That doesn’t make one bit of sense.”
In Cuba’s defense, attorney Robert Udashen attacked Doe’s credibility with a PowerPoint presentation.
“Jan Doe is old enough and bright enough to understand what it means to swear an oath to tell the truth,” he said.
Udashen pointed to what he called inconsistencies in Doe’s statements about the placement of her clothes. He also said she lied about drinking and being with Paul Eager.
“Jan Doe hasn’t been honest with you about what she was doing that night or who she was doing it with,” he said, adding that Doe “created her own monster” when she filed sexual assault charges against Cuba.
When Dallas County prosecutor Cresta Garland addressed the jury, she pointed to the packed courtroom.
“There is a room full of SMU students, and you better believe that is intimidating,” she said. “Their social status is on the line.”
Garland agreed that there was no physical evidence of rape for the jury to consider, but she said that only proved Doe’s naivete.
“If she wanted to set up Donald Cuba after a wonderful sexual experience, you better believe she would have saved her shorts, made sure she had DNA evidence and gotten a rape kit test,” she said. “But this was a girl who was scared and didn’t know what to do.”