Late last month, the defendant in a sexual misconduct case appealed his guilty conviction before an Arizona court of appeals. The defendant had been found guilty after his stepdaughter accused him of sexually assaulting her, and he argued on appeal that the trial court should have admitted certain evidence that it kept out of the trial record. If that evidence had been admitted, argued the defendant, he might have walked away without a guilty verdict. Ultimately, the court of appeals disagreed and denied the defendant’s appeal.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant lived with his wife and his wife’s daughter, who was 11 years old at the time of the alleged incidents. Twice over a period of two days, the defendant initiated sexual contact with the child, and she reported it to her school counselor later that week. Local law enforcement got involved, and the defendant was charged with sexual conduct with a minor.
When the case went to trial, the defendant’s attorney wanted to introduce into evidence two other examples of the when the child accused men of raping her. According to defense counsel, these other rapes ended up being false accusations, and the court should be allowed to consider this history when deciding whether the girl was telling the truth about the defendant in this case.
Ultimately, the trial court told the defendant’s attorney he could not use the prior instances as evidence, and the defendant was found guilty as charged.
On appeal, the defendant took issue with the trial court’s denial of his attempt to move these prior instances into evidence. According to the defendant, it was clear that the girl had falsely accused two other men of harming her, and it was only fair for the court to be aware of this information when making a decision.
The court disagreed. When admitting prior allegations by a victim of sexual assault, the court requires proof by “clear and convincing evidence” that the allegations were, indeed, false. Here, said the court, the defendant’s attorney did not meet his burden of proving that the child’s allegations were false – in fact, said the court, they could have very well been true.
Thus, because it was unclear what had really led the girl to make two previous allegations of sexual misconduct, the trial court was correct to keep those allegations from being admitted into evidence. The defendant’s appeal was denied, and the original conviction and sentence were both affirmed.
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