Jameis Winston, Florida State University quarterback and Heisman favorite, was cleared today of sexual assault allegations. The State’s attorney indicated that there was not a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial. During the press conference, it was revealed that, in addition to Winston’s DNA, the accuser’s boyfriend’s DNA was also found after completing a rape kit. The alleged victim’s memory regarding the incident was also lacking, which made the investigation more difficult. The toxicology report showed alcohol in her system, but no evidence of any drugs.
The State’s attorney was specifically asked during the press conference whether the decision not to press charges was based on a lack of evidence or a belief that the accuser’s story was not tenable. The State’s attorney side stepped the question.
In Florida, like in Colorado, in order to convict a person of a crime, the prosecution must prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors have an ethical responsibility not to press charges if there is not a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial. As such, a prosecutor may decide not to file charges because of a belief that the accused is truly innocent, but a prosecutor may also decide not to press charges because of a belief that there is not sufficient evidence to convince a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt.