Three days after a newspaper article created an uproar over dropped charges against a man accused of rape in northwest Missouri, an embattled county prosecutor announced Wednesday that he has asked for a special prosecutor to reexamine the case.
Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice has come under fire after dropping charges last year against a young man accused of raping Daisy Coleman, then 14, in early 2012. On Tuesday, the state's lieutenant governor and House speaker called for the attorney general to intervene and for a grand jury to examine the case.
Along with the county sheriff, Rice has maintained that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Matthew Barnett for sexual assault after Daisy and her mother pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to cooperate -- a claim Coleman's mother called "a lie" in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. (The Times does not normally name victims of sexual assault, but is naming Coleman because she has openly identified herself and publicized her case.)
Barnett's attorney maintained his client's innocence in a statement made early Wednesday.
During a later press conference in front of the Nodaway County courthouse in Maryville, Rice said that public trust in the justice system had to be upheld, and so he has asked a local judge to appoint a special prosecutor to reexamine the case.
He said he was also moved to act by a television interview Daisy gave with her mother and a younger girl who said she was attacked the same night as Daisy, in which they expressed a willingness to cooperate with the investigation.
“Until I saw it for my own eyes, honestly I didn’t believe it," Rice told reporters, adding that "honestly my door was open if they changed their mind … they [had] cast the death knell on the case."
Daisy's mother, Melinda Coleman, wasn't immediately available to comment. She had previously expressed hope to the Los Angeles Times that the case would get another look, and added that she didn't trust Rice to give it a fair shake.
“I think it would be really great if someone looked at it with fairness -- with truth," she had told The Times.