Trial begins for man charged with rape of underage victim in west Kentucky

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY– While 90% of criminal cases end in plea agreements, the other 10% go to trial. One of those trials started Wednesday — a rape case involving an underage victim.

Marcellus Phagan was arrested in Johnson County, Illinois, after a police chase that started in McCracken County in March 2018. He faces two counts of second degree rape and two counts of second degree sodomy.  If he’s found guilty, he could serve up to 20 years in prison.

It started with the selection of the jury. “What we’re going to do at this point is draw 14 names,” Circuit Judge Tim Kaltenbach said.

Then it was on to opening statements. The commonwealth claimed 30-year-old Phagan admitted that he had sex with a 13-year-old girl when he was arrested. The defense argued the victim in this case had it out for Phagan and told different detectives different stories that didn’t add up.

This case is an example of the few that go before a jury. Commonwealth’s Attorney Dan Boaz says there are multiple reasons few cases are tried like this.

“There are people who either reject the deal because they think we’re being too hard on them, or they didn’t commit the crime — and so there are people who stand accused who are not guilty,” Boaz said.

Defense Attorney Will Kautz saod we don’t see a lot of trials because it’s not always the best option.

“Number one, they don’t always have the resources to try every case. Number two, justice wouldn’t necessarily be served by trying every case. And number three, there’s no guarantee of a conviction in any case,” Kautz said.

Phagan’s case is an exception, and his fate rests in the hands of a jury of his peers.

Boaz said the jurors have already heard testimony from the victim’s mother and the three arresting officers. The jury will hear closing statements Thursday morning.

For information on this story and others, like Bryce Mansfield on Facebook.