MISSOULA — Just days before former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson is scheduled to go on trial for rape, a Missoula County District Court judge has denied a motion to dismiss the case against him.
That motion — hinging largely on a single sentence in a Missoula Police Department policy manual on the handling of sex-crime investigations — “is simply without merit,” Judge Karen Townsend wrote in an order issued Jan. 31 and filed Monday.
Johnson’s trial on a charge of sexual intercourse without consent is to begin Friday with jury selection. He is accused of raping a fellow UM student as the two watched a movie at her home in February 2012.
In its second motion to dismiss the case (Townsend denied the first in September), Johnson’s attorneys pointed to a sentence in the police policy manual that reads “every sex crime investigation is to be initiated with the belief it is true until evidence demonstrates otherwise.”
The defense argued that the statement could bias investigations, create a presumption of guilt rather than innocence and violate due process.
But the prosecution countered that a full reading of the policy reveals a requirement that the police “obtain the information necessary to determine a crime is being alleged” and “establish whether a crime occurred.”
“It makes no sense for a police agency to have a policy that assumes the reporter of a crime is making a false report, since such assumption would negate the need for an investigation,” the state contended.
Townsend’s order stressed that an investigation is not a trial, adding that “it is the purpose of an investigation to look for evidence of a crime as well as evidence of innocence. ...
“It is not until the time of trial that the defendant is guaranteed a right to a fair trial and is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” according to the judge’s order.
The judge’s order is among a torrent of legal paperwork, nearly all of it remaining under seal, that has been filed in the weeks leading up to the trial.
The case has attracted intense scrutiny. Jury selection is expected to run all day Friday and will be held at the Holiday Inn Downtown to accommodate the extra-large jury pool of 400.