Jury recalled in False Pass sexual assault case

Tuesday, February 01 2011

Unalaska, AK – Yesterday, jurors who decided the False Pass rape case in December were called back to the Unalaska courthouse to examine issues that may have affected case outcome.

That case resulted in a hung jury. Jason Neil Downard, 29, was alleged to have raped a False Pass woman in 2008 and was charged with three felonies. He was found guilty of assault in the second degree, and not guilty of attempted sexual assault. But the jury was split on the rape charge. Now, the State of Alaska is trying to figure out how to proceed with that charge and whether a retrial is necessary. An evidentiary hearing that considered outside factors that may have impacted the jury's decision is a first step in that process. Judge Steve Cole explained why the jury was called back.

"Some issues have come up as to whether there were some issues that came up - and I guess I could best describe this as pre-trial publicity," said Cole. "The case law from the Alaska Supreme Court is really clear - and this is a really unusual situation and there might not be an issue at all -- is that we need to speak to you and ask you a few questions individually about that issue."

The jurors were individually interviewed by the judge, with the attorneys present. The deliberation process was not discussed.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Gist and Assistant Public Advocate Paul Maslakowski were present for the hearing. Downard was unable to fly to Unalaska due to weather, and participated in the evidentiary hearing over teleconference.

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