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Defendant in Sexual Assault Case Unsuccessfully Appeals Guilty Verdict

Last month, a defendant involved in a sexual assault case appealed his convictions of kidnapping, sexual assault, and sexual conduct with a minor. Originally, the State of Arizona had brought charges against him for incidents with four different victims under the age of 18. The defendant’s case went to trial, and he was convicted and sentenced as charged. On appeal, the defendant made several arguments, one of which was that the prosecutor unfairly played to the jury’s emotions during the trial. Looking at the trial record, the court of appeals ultimately affirmed the original verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with incidents of sexual assault that happened in 1992, 1995, 1999, and 2004. The minors in each case had reported to law enforcement that the defendant had either kidnapped, raped, or otherwise assaulted them, but law enforcement failed to properly investigate the cases.

Finally, in 2018, law enforcement reopened each of the four cases. By that point, cold-case testing had led officers to believe that the defendant was the person guilty of all four crimes. Police called the four victims and asked if they would come to testify in the defendant’s trial.

In September 2021, a jury found the defendant guilty as charged. He was sentenced to 111 years in prison, and he promptly appealed.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that the prosecutor had engaged in misconduct during the trial. Specifically, he referenced law enforcement’s failure to quickly investigate the crimes several times during the litigation. By continuing to talk about this error, the State was making members of the jury feel sympathetic towards the victims in the case for not getting justice sooner. This tilted the jury in the victims’ favor, turning them away from the actual evidence and instead asking them to focus on the difficult time the victims must have had.

The court considered this argument but ultimately did not agree. It was reasonable, said the court, for the State to bring up the long amount of time that passed between the crimes and the investigation because it explained the fact that some evidence was no longer available. Also, the defendant’s lawyer brought up the lapse of time in his own case, arguing that the entire process was “simply unacceptable.” If the defendant was allowed to bring up this fact, the prosecutor was too. Therefore, the court concluded this was not a prosecutorial error, and the defendant was not entitled to a new verdict.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Arizona?

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges related to an alleged sexual assault in Arizona, know that you have rights under the law. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we work hard to be experts on these rights so that we can make sure your voice is heard. If you are fighting charges, don’t wait – give our office a call for a free and confidential consultation at 480-414-1499. You can also fill out our online form to have your questions answered.

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