A former Pasco police officer will argue the woman accusing him of rape and assault did so to conceal an extramarital relationship.
Jury selection began Wednesday for the trial of Richard J. Aguirre, 52, in Franklin County Superior Court. His attorney, John Henry Browne, revealed his intended defense strategy during pretrial motions.
The house the woman fled to after Aguirre allegedly assaulted her was also the home of her lover, Brown said. He alleged that she had a child with her lover, but told her husband the child was his.
“Our theory of the case is the alleged victim wanted to stay with (her lover),” Browne told Judge Bruce Spanner, and she accused Aguirre of rape and assault to give her cover to do so.
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Franklin County Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny criticized Browne’s argument, raising concerns that it would violate the state statute protecting victims of rape.
Spanner at first questioned the reasoning behind the defense, but eventually agreed Browne “connected the dots sufficiently to present this to the jury.”
The woman reported in late 2014 she was sexually assaulted by Aguirre. He was placed on leave by the Pasco Police Department, then resigned in April 2015, ending his 27-year career.
Browne has said the allegations against his client are completely false and that they have a “substantial defense” for trial.
While not wanting to reveal his entire defense, Browne said the woman’s ulterior motives are key to showing Aguirre’s innocence. The woman’s husband would likely have been upset with her if he later learned she spent the night at her lover’s house without an extenuating circumstance.
“We’re not introducing it for traditional character or reputation reasons, it’s just facts the jury needs to know,” Browne said.
We’re not introducing it for traditional character or reputation reasons, it’s just facts the jury needs to know.
Defense attorney John Henry Browne
Jenny expected some attempt to introduce the victim’s sexual history, he said, adding that she had no need to cover up a visit to her lover — her husband was out of town.
One of the first things she did on arriving at the man’s house was to call her mother and tell her what happened and where she was, Jenny said.
“It would be completely unnecessary to create a ruse to spend the night with her (lover),” he said.
Spanner did raise concerns with Browne’s defense, especially regarding the paternity of the woman’s child. He cautioned Browne to not delve into that issue without the court’s permission.
“This whole scenario falls into the ‘life is stranger than fiction’ category,” Spanner said.
Browne has also argued that Aguirre can’t get a fair trial in Franklin County because of the publicity of this case and a 1986 Spokane murder he is charged with. The latter case resulted from his DNA being entered into a national database as a result of the rape investigation.
Browne’s recent effort to have the trial moved to King County was denied, with another judge saying the request was premature as no potential jurors had yet been called.
Spanner, Jenny and Browne reviewed the first 25 potential jurors Wednesday afternoon. Nearly half of those were immediately excused without questioning because of clear hardship, connections to the justice system or opinions on the case.
Another seven potential jurors were excused after questioning. Most of those were for hardships such as set travel plans, work schedules and family duties.
One female juror was excused after saying she was familiar with Aguirre’s attorney and with reports on Aguirre’s charges. Two other dismissed female jurors said they couldn’t be objective because of their perceptions of an arrest or charges for sex-related crimes.
But a number of potential jurors said that while they had some knowledge of Aguirre’s cases in Franklin County and Spokane, they could be impartial and weigh the evidence presented in court.
“I formed an opinion with the information I had,” one male juror said. “That doesn’t mean it’s a final verdict.”