County judge overturns jury’s guilty verdict against ex-CMU student

By Emily Wolfe, Contributing Editor

In a rare move, an Allegheny County judge has overturned the May jury verdict that convicted a former Carnegie Mellon University student of sexually assaulting a female Pitt student, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday.

Joon Woo “Jason” Baik, 24, who graduated from CMU in the spring, was found guilty in early May in the Sept. 2018 incident. The jury that found Baik guilty acquitted him of rape of an unconscious victim, simple assault and false imprisonment. 

But last week, the Post-Gazette reported, Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Alexander Bicket granted a motion from Baik’s defense attorney to overturn the verdict before Baik’s sentencing due to insufficient evidence. According to the paper, Bicket called the evidence presented at Baik’s trial “so unreliable and contradictory that it is incapable of supporting a verdict of guilty and thus insufficient as a matter of law.”

Evidence presented at the trial included an audio recording made by Baik on the night of the incident. On the tape, jurors heard the woman, who has remained anonymous throughout the legal process, repeatedly say both yes and no to sex. Baik also admitted to the police that he had been aware that the woman was drunk enough during the encounter that she would have been unable to drive.

When initially questioned by a Pittsburgh police sergeant about the incident, Baik’s attorney said, the woman told the sergeant she had had consensual sex with Baik. During the trial, the woman admitted to hearing her voice consenting to sex with Baik at points on the audio recording, but said she had no memory of saying it.

Bicket said he found the evidence too conflicting and unreliable to result in a guilty verdict.

In a statement she had planned to read at Baik’s sentencing, the alleged victim wrote that her encounter with Baik drove her to self-harm, lose sleep and argue with her parents in the months following the incident. She has begun counseling to help her cope with the incident, she said.

“It took me a long time before I finally convinced myself that my life was not doomed, and I was not doomed because of this assault, but not without much emotional distress and struggle,” she said in the statement.

While Pennsylvania judges have the power to overturn a jury verdict, the occurrence is rare. At least two jury members in the case are upset about the decision, the Post-Gazette reported, as are victim advocate groups in the state.

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