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Florida prosecutor makes tough call in Jameis Winston rape allegation

Florida State is breathing a sigh of relief. The prosecutor for Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit, William Meggs, decided not to file sexual battery charges against quarterback Jameis Winston, citing a lack of evidence to obtain a conviction.

In theory, the top goal/job of a prosecutor is to seek justice. Sometimes, that means filing charges in a difficult case and other times that means having the courage to decline to file charges in a weak case.

The Winston investigation has received a lot of attention from the media and the college football world and there was undoubtedly pressure on the prosecutor to file charges. Yet, the prosecutor must be able to remove himself or herself from this pressure and determine, based on the evidence, if it can be proved to a jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, Meggs determined he could not.

Sex cases, including sexual battery, are among the most difficult cases to obtain a conviction in because there are often only two players and the evidence is scant. It is seldom like what you see in the movies, with brutal crime scenes and obvious injuries.

In this particular case, the alleged battery occurred in December 2012. There are allegations this investigation was not conducted properly, citing as examples that potential witnesses were not questioned in a timely fashion, the female involved had been drinking and couldn’t remember details, and DNA of two males was uncovered. These things together can make a conviction difficult if not impossible.

I applaud the prosecutor in this case for making a difficult decision that has likely resulted in ridicule from many. Should more evidence come to light in the future the prosecutor can still file charges. However, it appears clear, for the time being, that Winston is off the hook and able to pursue his Heisman Trophy dreams.