Midshipman Sex Assault Case to Begin

A military jury is poised to hear the sexual assault case of a Navy midshipman -- the second such case in less than a year.

Opening statements were scheduled for Thursday morning in the court-martial of Kenny Ray Morrison, who is accused of sexually assaulting two female students from the Naval military academy.

Lawyers for Morrison and Navy prosecutors picked a jury of seven Marine and Navy officers Wednesday after three days of lengthy questioning. The jurors are all officers at the Annapolis, Md., academy.

Morrison, 24, of Kingwood, Texas, faces charges that include indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer for two separate encounters last year involving female midshipmen after nights of drinking.

He is one of two midshipman accused last year of sexual assault. Lamar Owens Jr., the former star quarterback of Navy's football team, was cleared of rape charges last year but academy superintendent Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt has recommended Owens be dismissed from the academy without graduating.

Morrison's lawyers have alleged that Rempt is unfairly pursuing the case because of political pressure to do more to stanch sexual abuse at the academy. Prospective jurors were asked whether they thought Rempt was influencing the case. At least one seated on the final panel said he believed Rempt wanted to make an example of Morrison.

William Ferris, Morrison's civilian lawyer, also complained about the makeup of the jury pool, which is selected by Rempt. Most of the 30 prospective jurors were relatively senior officers, which Ferris implied was an attempt to make it easier to win a conviction. Navy prosecutors, however, denied the charge.

"There is not one shred of evidence that the superintendent... has endeavored in any way to stack this panel," said Lt. Cmdr. Colin Kisor.

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.