DES MOINES, Iowa -- Since May 12th, when 16-year-old Sabrina Ray’s body was found, there has been an endless number of questions surrounding her death. On Friday, the path to answers became clearer when the state announced that Ray’s adoptive cousin, Josie Bousman--one of the five people charged in Ray's death--will testify against the other four in this case.
That testimony will have major implications for all parties involved. Channel 13 tracked down a long-time Polk County public defender to get some clarity in regard to what this will mean for the trial. He started by saying that the Bousman testimony will make the defense's job much harder.
“It’s the fact that this person has specialized knowledge because of the relationship to the people they are prosecuting. So your client now may be the relative who is going to be testifying against them. That may mean the person has specialized knowledge and that can really hurt you,” said Robert Rigg, Drake Law Professor and former Polk County Public Defender.
Rigg has worked on many cases like this, in which the state has offered a deal to a witness in exchange for testimony. Bousman's testimony is a negative for the defense, and has likely made the state’s job a lot easier.
“Probably is. Generally if the state makes a plea bargain with someone in exchange for their testimony, that means the state does value their testimony a great deal and is willing to give up a lot in order to get that testimony,” said Rigg.
Rigg said that testimony from a family member can often be the most impactful statements a juror can hear all trial. He believes what Bousman says could be the determining factor in whether the other four are convicted. With that said, Rigg urges caution because you never know how a witness will respond to being on the stand.
“You can take the best witness in the world and summarize their testimony, look at it on paper, and think you’ve got a great witness. On the other hand, you can put that person in front of a jury and they don’t react well. Then that undercuts their testimony and undercuts their value,” he said.
Trials are expected to begin in January of next year.