Seeking Conviction Investigative Collaboration

Revocation Of Sexual Consent Bill Dying In NC Senate

May 9, 2019
NC Legislative Building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

A bill that would make it illegal to continue to have sex with someone who told the other person to stop has died in a state Senate committee.

Courtesy of Carolina Public Press

Fewer than a quarter of people charged with sexual assault in North Carolina from 2014-2018 were convicted of a sex-related crime. That is according to a new analysis from 11 news organizations in North Carolina, led by Carolina Public Press. The reporting also identifies big disparities in conviction rates from one county to the next.

Questions Of Consent Can Make NC Sexual Assault Cases Tough To Prosecute

Mar 21, 2019
Donyetta Gilmer, a sexual assault and domestic violence advocate with Shelter Home, consoles a sexual assault survivor during counseling. Shelter Home is based in Lenoir, in Caldwell County.
Robert C. Reed / Hickory Daily Record

Even if a rape case makes it to trial, it can still be tough to convince juries — especially if the perpetrator says it wasn't a crime at all, but a consensual act.

In fact, Cumberland District Attorney Billy West said he believes that "getting a conviction in a sex offense case from a jury of 12 may be the most difficult one to get in our system."

Sexual Assault Cases Hinge On Evidence Gathered By Police, Nurses

Mar 20, 2019
Sherry Shepard and Karen Palm are sexual assault nurse examiners at Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory. Here Shepard and Palm display all of the components in a N.C. State Crime Lab sexual assault evidence collection kit.
Robert C. Reed / Hickory Daily Record

Sometimes the right evidence can make or break a sexual assault case.

Even when that evidence exists forensically or through witness testimony, the right circumstances make a difference, as do solid work by police, rape crisis advocates, medical professionals and prosecutors.

Sexual Assault Suspects Face Little Prospect Of Conviction In Some Counties

Mar 19, 2019
Leisa Young, animal assisted therapy consultant and service dog trainer for the Waynesville-based 30th Judicial District Domestic Violence-Sexual Assault Alliance, plays with Raya. The dogs help sexual assault survivors in southwestern North Carolina impr
Colby Rabon / Carolina Public Press

In 38 counties across North Carolina, zero defendants who were charged with sexual assault between Jan. 1, 2014, and June 30, 2018, were convicted of that charge or a reduced charge during that time window, according to analysis of statewide court data by Carolina Public Press.

Analysis: NC Convicts Fewer Than 1 In 4 Sexual Assault Defendants

Mar 18, 2019
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

Fewer than one in four defendants charged with sexual assault in North Carolina can expect to be convicted of that charge or a related reduced charge, and some parts of the state generate few if any sexual assault convictions, according to Carolina Public Press' analysis of state court data.

The picture is not universal. A few counties have conviction levels well above the state average.

Mariano Santillan / Carolina Public Press

Our series Seeking Conviction relies partly on an analysis of North Carolina criminal court records produced by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Court clerks in each of the state's 100 counties enter criminal and infraction data into a central system, which is basically a large filing cabinet for cases.