In a recent sexual abuse case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant argued that his conviction should be reversed because of evidence that was unreasonably admitted during his trial. The defendant was originally charged after a client at his massage therapy business alleged that he inappropriately touched her during their massage session. The defendant’s case went to trial, and he was found guilty. The defendant went on to appeal the decision, but the higher court ultimately affirmed the guilty conviction.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant worked as a massage therapist at a local business. A woman came in for a massage, and during the massage, the defendant began touching her inappropriately with both his hands and his genitalia. The woman left the massage room and called 911 to report the incident.
The defendant was charged with two counts of sexual abuse. His case went to trial, and he was found guilty. The defendant promptly appealed.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the jury should not have been privy to the woman’s 911 call. The prosecution had admitted the call as part of the State’s case in chief; the call provided evidence of the woman’s immediate reporting of the incident and of her distress at the time. The jury then took the call into consideration when deciding on the defendant’s guilty.
From the defendant’s perspective, the 911 call was hearsay, or a statement provided by someone that was not a party to the case, outside of court proceedings. While it was true, said the higher court, that the woman was not technically a party to the case and that she made the 911 call outside of court proceedings, the call fell into an exception to the hearsay rules. Here, the call was something called an “excited utterance” – it was made soon after the incident and it was the clear result of the woman’s distress. When a statement like this one occurs close in time to a startling event, it can be admissible in court even though it is hearsay.
Because the woman’s 911 call was admissible under this excited utterance doctrine, the higher court denied the defendant’s appeal, keeping his conviction in place.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges in the State of Arizona?
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