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Justice elusive for NC sexual assault survivors

Samantha White, of Cumberland County, survived a sexual assault as a teenager in Johnston County. She later testified against her attacker – her church pastor – resulting in his conviction and imprisonment. Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer

Analysis of 4 ½ years of North Carolina court data shows that about 1 in 4 sexual assault defendants who were charged and had their cases resolved in that time window were convicted of either sexual assault or a reduced and related charge. Of those cases in that time period, 50 defendants went to trial; 23 were found guilty. But individual counties had different outcomes. More than 30 of the state’s 100 counties had no sexual assault or reduced-charge convictions at all. A few were well above the statewide level.

A collaborative investigative project spanning 6 ½ months and including 11 news organizations analyzed statewide court data and conducted extensive interviews with sexual assault survivors, victim advocates, medical professionals, law enforcement, prosecutors and state officials across the North Carolina.

The result is Seeking Conviction, an investigative series examining sexual assault convictions in North Carolina, the challenges to successful prosecution, the differences across jurisdictions and the issues state court rulings create when it comes to consent.

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MADE POSSIBLE BY

Carolina Public Press created and managed the Seeking Conviction project, in partnership with 10 other news organizations in North Carolina, linked above. We are grateful for their dedication, work and support in making this project happen and enriching the information and context it contains.

Also, this Carolina Public Press collaborative investigative reporting project was ultimately made possible by the financial support of individuals and foundations who believe in CPP’s work to provide independent, in-depth and investigative reporting in North Carolina. Specific support was provided by the North Carolina Local News Lab and the Fund for Investigative Journalism. We are very grateful for their support.

What the data revealed

Prosecutorial Districts

District attorneys are elected public officials in North Carolina, and they represent the state in prosecutions. The district in which they work is called a “prosecutorial district.” Take a look at what happened in your prosecutorial district, when it comes to sexual assault convictions.

Graphic by Cassandra Sherrill of the Winston-Salem Journal.

How did we do this analysis? Read about it here.


County-by-county

Find out what happened in every one of North Carolina’s 100 counties when it comes to the conviction of sexual assault cases.

Graphic by Cassandra Sherrill of the Winston-Salem Journal.

How did we do this analysis? Read about it here.

Video clips and stories

Samantha White: Her story and what she thinks should happen now

Monika Johnson Hostler: Has a decade made a difference?

Monika Johnson Hostler: On how NC compares to other states

Rep. Chaz Beasley: Bipartisan action needed in North Carolina consent law

Monika Johnson Hostler: On NC ruling that says consent can’t be revoked once act has begun

Monika Johnson Hostler: NC statute makes it difficult to seek convictions against perpetrators whose victims have been drinking, doing drugs

Conversation

Public Newsmakers forum in Fayetteville

Carolina Public Press held a public forum about issues surrounding the conviction of sexual assault cases in North Carolina in Fayetteville on March 19, 2019, following the release of its statewide investigative collaboration, Seeking Conviction: Justice elusive for NC sexual assault survivors.

Panelists are Deanne Gerdes, executive director of Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County; Liz Herring, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Coordinator, Cape Fear Valley Health System; Alicia Marks, assistant district attorney, NC Prosecutorial District 14, Cumberland County; Lt. John Somerindyke, commander, Special Victims Unit, Fayetteville Police Department; and Bella Truong, assistant district attorney, NC Prosecutorial District 14, Cumberland County. Moderators are Carolina Public Press Managing Editor Frank Taylor and lead Investigative Reporter Kate Martin.


Public Newsmakers forum in Raleigh

Carolina Public Press held a public forum about issues surrounding the conviction of sexual assault cases in North Carolina in Raleigh on March 20, 2019, following the release of its statewide investigative collaboration, Seeking Conviction: Justice elusive for NC sexual assault survivors.

Panelists are Rep. Chaz Beasley, Mecklenburg (D); Mary Williams-Stover, executive director of the NC Council for Women; Monika Johnson Hostler, executive director, NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Paul Phelan Jr., instructor developer, North Carolina Justice Academy; Lauren Schwartz, sexual assault nurse examiner and director of The Solace Center, InterAct of Wake County; and Amanda Thompson, Laboratory Assistant Director for Administration Operations with the State Crime Laboratory. Moderators are Carolina Public Press Managing Editor Frank Taylor and lead Investigative Reporter Kate Martin.


Public Newsmakers forum in Charlotte

Carolina Public Press held a public forum about issues surrounding the conviction of sexual assault cases in North Carolina in the Charlotte area on March 26, 2019, following the release of its statewide investigative collaboration, Seeking Conviction: Justice elusive for NC sexual assault survivors.

Panelists are Crystal Emerick, founder and executive director, Brave Step; Cori Goldstein, director of Sexual Trauma Resource Center, Safe Alliance; Holly Jones, community partnership and outreach coordinator, North Carolina Department of Justice; and Spencer B. Merriweather III, district attorney, NC Prosecutorial District 26, Mecklenburg County. Moderators are Carolina Public Press Managing Editor Frank Taylor and lead Investigative Reporter Kate Martin.

About the series

Carolina Public Press on CNN’s Headline News

Carolina Public Press lead investigative reporter Kate Martin appears on CNN’s Headline News to discuss Seeking Conviction: Justice elusive for NC sexual assault survivors.


The Kicker, Show 12 | Seeking Conviction

In this episode of The Kicker, Carolina Public Press’s managing editor Frank Taylor talks with CPP lead investigative reporter Kate Martin about Seeking Conviction, a multi-part investigative reporting project that CPP led in collaboration with 10 other news media partners around North Carolina. Seeking Conviction is a data-driven investigation looking at sexual assault prosecutions statewide and in individual jurisdictions.

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