CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After filing a writ with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Monongalia County’s prosecuting attorney has won the right to use DNA evidence at the trial for a man accused of a 2016 sexual assault in Morgantown.
In December 2019, a former employee of downtown pizza restaurant was charged with sexual assault in connection with an incident that happened in May 2016.
Cesar Felix, 24, who worked at Casa D’Amici at the time of the incident, was arrested after Morgantown Police investigators got a report that matched Felix’s DNA with a sample taken from the victim as part of a sex crimes kit.
As a part of their investigation, but prior to Felix’s arrest, Morgantown Police interviewed Felix and got a DNA sample from him. Because Felix’s primary language is Spanish, he participated in the interview with the help of a friend who served as an interpreter. Believing that Felix was innocent, his interpreter/friend suggested that he provide a DNA swab. Detectives gave Felix a permission form to allow for the DNA sample, which he signed after it was explained to him by the interpreter.
After being charged in the case, attorneys for Felix made a motion that the DNA evidence and the statement Felix made to police be excluded from his trial, arguing that Felix provided both without being given his Miranda warnings.
Monongalia County Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot granted the defense’s motion and excluded the evidence, leading Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney Perri DeChristopher to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
DeChristopher argued that because Felix came to meet with investigators under his own free will and wasn’t being detained by police, Miranda warnings were not necessary.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued its decision, finding the Judge Gaujot’s decision “constituted clear legal error.” You can read the court’s full decision here.
Supreme Court Justice Bill Wooten issued a dissent, saying that DeChristopher did not prove that she could not have won the case with other evidence the state had against Felix. Wooten’s full dissent can be found here.
Felix is being held in the North Central Regional Jail, with bail set at $100,012.