Opening statements in former Vols’ rape trial paint totally different pictures

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Attorneys gave their opening statements in the rape trial for Former Tennessee Volunteers football players AJ Johnson and Michael Williams Monday morning and testimony began.

Scroll to the bottom of this story for the live blog

Jury selection for the trial, which began last Monday, took a full five days to complete. The jury consists of seven women and five men, plus three alternates. They are mostly white and none are African-American.

Johnson and Williams are accused of raping a white female UT athlete at a party in November 2014.

The opening statements were a war of words. The defense says the accuser and two defendants were all willing participants in a sexual act, but the state says that’s far from what actually happened.

“This is not something that she wanted to be happening,” said prosecutor Kyle Hixson.

State prosecutors say it was rape. The defense called it consensual group sex. Jurors will have to decide which argument is more convincing.

The state made the case tha ta UT female athlete was forced into unwanted sexual activity with the two defendants. 

“She’s saying no, as she’s trying leave. All they’re telling her is, ‘Shh, it’s okay as long as nobody knows,'” said Hixson.

Defense attorneys argued that the accuser agreed to the sex until word of what happened started to spread.

“It dawned on her afterward that there might not be a way to keep this secret,” said defense attorney Stephen Johnson. “She didn’t think through that that lie in the moment would warp out of her control.”

First to take the stand in the trial was the accuser’s best friend Anna Lawn. She was there the night of the party and recalls seeing her traumatized friend moments after the alleged rape.

“She was crying hysterically. There were tears streaming down her face, hands covering her mouth and her face. She was hyperventilating and couldn’t breathe. I’ve never seen her cry like that. I’ve never seen anyone in my life cry like that,” said Lawn on the stand.

Cross examination of Lawn will continue on Tuesday morning.

Follow our live blog below for full coverage of the trial as it happens:

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