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New trial granted for Lyft driver convicted of raping rider

September 19, 2021 GMT

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — A judge has granted a new trial to Mandan Lyft driver whose 2019 conviction for raping a customer was upheld by the North Dakota Supreme Court.

South Central District Judge Bobbi Weiler wrote in an order earlier this week that Corey Wickham’s constitutional rights were violated when his defense attorney failed to object to police testimony she said impacted the jury’s decision.

Wickham, now 42, was working as a Lyft driver in August 2018 when he was accused of raping a woman after driving her home. A jury convicted him of two sexual assault charges and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Wickham’s attorney, Lloyd Suhr, argued that a Bismarck police detective’s testimony about Wickham’s request for an attorney was an improper comment that should have drawn an objection from defense counsel. The jury was deadlocked early in deliberation and asked for the detective’s testimony to be read back to them.

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Less than an hour after hearing the testimony for the second time, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Wickham’s attorney at the time, James Loraas, did not object either time.

Loraas did not immediately respond to an email by The Bismarck Tribune request seeking comment.

The state Supreme Court in January 2020 upheld the conviction. Wickham at that time argued the district court erred by admitting testimony from five witnesses without requiring the prosecution to qualify them as experts.