Albert Wilson case graphic and brief


Albert Wilson was a college student out for an evening of fun that changed his life. He met a 17-year-old female at a Lawrence bar in Sept. 2016, made out with her there, then accompanied her to his house – where she said she was raped, but he says they made out and clothes stayed on. They were gone a total of 15-20 minutes. 

Despite a lack of evidence, Asst. District Atty. Amy McGowan prosecuted and won a conviction against Wilson.

An affidavit says the female went to a hospital the next day for a rape exam. A month later the female reported the incident as a rape. A month after that, Wilson was interviewed by police. A year later, in 2017, Wilson was arrested and charged. In early 2019, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to serve 12 years plus lifetime probation and sex offender registration.

The female gave dramatic testimony of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but McGowan presented no physical evidence of rape aside from a photo of what was supposedly the female’s bruised inner thigh and the only DNA belonging to Wilson was his saliva on her chest via kissing.

Observers said the case boiled down to she-said-he-said with a White victim and White jury against an African-American defendant. Wilson had no previous problems with the law.

Protesters say the recent social justice protests may have reignited the push for a new trial, but their support of Albert Wilson has never wavered.

Local civil rights groups are gathering together in support of a new trial for a former University of Kansas student they say was wrongly convicted of rape in 2019.

Albert Wilson was a 20-year-old student at KU when he was accused of rape by a then 17-year-old girl in Lawrence.

According to the Douglas County District Attorney’s office, the teenager met Wilson at the Jayhawk Cafe, a local bar, on Sept. 10, 2016. The victim said Wilson led her away from her cousin at the bar and then home where he raped her.

In 2019 Wilson was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but the Kansas Court of Appeals has now remanded the case to Douglas County District Court for a new trial to determine whether Wilson had ineffective counsel.

Local civil rights groups say they've never believed Wilson was guilty of the charge.

“We all strongly believe in his innocence. We have been fighting for Albert since day one,” said Latahra Smith, founder of the KC Freedom Project.

Smith is joined by a league of supporters across the country who began a social media movement called Free Albert Wilson.

Supporters maintain there were many factors that led to Wilson’s wrongful conviction including a lack of physical evidence, an all-White jury and an unjust legal system.

“Our system says innocent until proven guilty, but what they have flipped on us is they're making someone have to prove their innocence rather than prove their guilt,” said Sahj Kaya, director of the local justice organization, Exonerate MA People.

Kaya is one of the civil rights leaders speaking at Monday’s rally. Supporters will board buses in Wichita and head to Lawrence where they will gather in front of the Douglas County Courthouse.

Kansas lawmaker questions public defender's office

The rally was organized with the help of Kansas State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau who says demonstrations like these are necessary for those who fail to have their voice heard in the legal system.

People of color, and White people who are poor, the only way they can get their voice heard is to get a rally of people to advocate for those individuals. We need to change that,” said Faust-Goudeau.

One of the main ways she wants to give disenfranchised communities a voice is by improving the state’s public defender system.

This move is also inspired by Wilson’s trial and complaints that he was unable to afford his own attorney, forcing him to rely on a public defender who supporters say was too overworked to properly defend him.

Another major complaint surrounds Amy McGowan, former prosecutor of the Douglas County District Attorney’s office, and her involvement in the original case.

McGowan retired last year but faced years of criticism from criminal justice advocates for her work as a prosecutor in Jackson County. Advocates specifically cite her prosecution of Ricky Kidd, who was exonerated in 2019 after spending 23 years in prison for murder.

“They caused him to be in prison for so long, you know, an innocent person. Now we have a person that we know is innocent again, where it may have no proof, no DNA that he has done what they claimed he has done,” said Kaya.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, McGowan faced a disciplinary hearing in early October for her conduct and will face another at a future date.

While the hearing is what Smith calls a step in the right direction, she says every case McGowan has been involved in needs to be reviewed. She also says the Freedom Project plans to launch a hotline for people to share complaints about their attorneys.

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