Arizona Court Decides Witness’s Employment History is Irrelevant for Sexual Misconduct Trial

A recent criminal case before Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals brought up important questions about challenging a witness’s credibility during trial. In this case, the defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for sexual conduct with a minor. On appeal, he argued that he was unreasonably restricted during his questioning of one of the prosecution’s witnesses. The court reviewed the rules of evidence at play and ultimately disagreed with the defendant, denying his appeal.

The Witness at Issue

During the defendant’s trial, the prosecution called an employee of the store where both the defendant and the minor child worked. Supposedly, the employee walked into the store to find the defendant and the minor having sexual intercourse, and she reported this incident to the police. She was thus the prosecution’s key eyewitness during trial.

The defendant’s attorney tried to challenge the witness’s credibility on cross examination by asking her about why she was ultimately fired from her job at the store. Apparently, the reason for the witness’s termination had something to do with the owner accusing her of stealing approximately $700 from the store. If the jury members knew that the witness had a history of lying, argued the defendant, they might have been able to see that she was not a credible witness. This would have led the jury to distrust her testimony and be more likely to believe the defendant, who maintained his innocence, instead of the witness.

The Court’s Decision

The court reviewed the rules of evidence, noting that “a witness’s credibility may be attacked…by testimony about the witness’s reputation for having a character for truthfulness or untruthfulness.” This rule essentially allows an attorney to cross examine a witness using that witness’s history of lying. Ultimately, though, the court ruled that this kind of questioning would not have been appropriate for this particular witness.

The witness’s termination from her job had nothing to do with the offense at issue. The reason for her leaving the job was irrelevant in deciding her credibility. Therefore, the testimony about the termination would have confused and misled the jury, and it was appropriate for the trial court to keep the prosecution from asking questions on cross examination about her employment history.

With that, then, the higher court denied the defendant’s appeal. His conviction and sentence remained in place.

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If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in Arizona, give us a call at the Law Office of James E. Novak. Our team offers diligent representation based on decades of experience, and we are proud to fight aggressively for our clients’ freedom. If you are looking for a thorough and results-driven Arizona sex crimes attorney to help you fight your case, look no further. For a free and confidential consultation with our firm, give us a call at (480) 413-1499. You can also fill out our online form to have an attorney reach back out to you as soon as possible about your case.


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