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Instead, the jury was left with the impression that Kim's story was inconsistent in key areas.

Kim finally left the stand after testifying for hours. Beatty then presented testimony by police detectives and a doctor.

Jan Whitson told the jurors how Skillman had lied to her about not knowing Kim. But she admitted she'd never heard about Sharon Singer until Kim mentioned her on the stand.

"We all wanted to know what the story with [Sharon] was," says juror Marc Slonim. "I mean, if [Kim] told her something right afterward, what was it? What was her mood like? Was she happy or sad? And why didn't the detective know about her? Was anyone hiding anything? That kind of stuff."

It's unusual for a defendant arguing "consent" in a sexual-assault case not to take the stand. But Reginald Cooke decided not to present any defense, hoping that the lack of evidence, other than Kim's inconsistent testimony, would sway the jury.

John Beatty's first of two closing arguments started out well.
"No means no," he told the jury. "She said no. You heard her say it with her voice. A deaf person said no. . . . She got herself into a situation that she could not control. And that's bad. But are you going to blame her for what he did, for taking advantage? He was a predator."

Then the prosecutor made a dreadful mistake.
"He didn't take no as an answer," Beatty continued. "He kept pushing and pushing. She just said, 'Fine. Okay.' This is after all this time."

That left a door wide open for Cooke to argue "consent" even more vigorously. In his closing argument, the defense attorney wisely dropped the white-girl-likes-black-guy theme he'd previewed in his opening statement.

"[It] is not an offense for a young man--a 19-year-old boy--to beg," Cooke said, "and for a woman, a young girl, to feel pressured. That is not a crime."

The jury began its deliberations. It quickly decided that Skillman was not guilty of kidnaping Kim Bradley. But it remained deadlocked for two days on the sexual assaults.

"It was down the middle," foreman Jim Brumfield says. "I was one of the ones for guilty. Then, slowly, we started edging toward reasonable doubt."

Juror Inez Vainauskas had similar misgivings. "You know in your heart that he did something wrong," says the Phoenix resident, "but in the eyes of the law, I started not to be so sure. We just needed a little more--something on being deaf, something from [Sharon]. It's sad."

Immediately after the acquittal, Jan Whitson recalls, John Beatty told her something she'll never forget.

"He told me, 'Jan, I let you down. I wasn't prepared,'" the detective says. "I said, 'You didn't let me down, John.'

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin