A 2017 second-degree rape conviction of a Kelso man was overturned Tuesday by the Washington State Court of Appeals, bringing the case back to the Cowlitz County Superior Court and possibly for another trial.
James Gorman-Lykken, a 32-year-old Kelso man, was sentenced in November 2017 to 10 years and three months in prison for allegedly having sex with a woman he was dating who was asleep and could not consent, according to police and court records.
Gorman-Lykken appealed his trial, conviction and sentence, arguing that Superior Court Judge Michael Evans should not have allowed a corrections officer to be stationed next to him while he testified on the witness stand.
Evans said during the trial that the corrections policy was to have officers “be in close proximity to somebody who is testifying that’s been accused of a crime,” according to the appellate court’s findings.
Evans said he was sensitive to the concern that the officer’s proximity could prejudice the jury, but concluded that “I think on the whole I’m comfortable having the officer stay where she’s at,” according to the appellate court’s findings.
In its review of the case, the Court of Appeals did not find the officer’s presence next to Gorman-Lykken to be “inherently prejudicial,” but found that Evans should have better explained why the officer was allowed to be there and why that outweighed how the act might prejudice the jury against Gorman-Lykken.
The appellate court also clarified that under state law, the trial court cannot solely rely on the security officer’s presence to justify the decision — which the Court of Appeals concluded Evans did.
In a concurring opinion, one of the appellate judges also found that the court also delivered erroneous instructions to the jury and that the prosecuting attorney misrepresented the defense attorney’s arguments and improperly argued that the defense attorney lied during closing arguments.
The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court “abused its discretion” and overturned Gorman-Lykken’s conviction, remanding the case back to Cowlitz County.