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Defendant Unsuccessfully Argues that Prosecution Appeals Too Strongly to Jury’s Emotions in Sexual Assault Case

Last month, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on a defendant’s appeal in a sexual assault case. After a lengthy trial in the lower court, the defendant was found guilty of sexually assaulting his minor niece. On appeal, the defendant made several arguments, arguing the guilty verdict was unfounded and should be reversed. The court of appeals kept the guilty verdict in place, rejecting the defendant’s contentions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the victim in this case was a minor who would sometimes stay over at her cousin’s house for the evening. One night, she slept over with her cousin, sharing a room but sleeping in her own bed. During the night, her uncle, the defendant, came into the room to soothe his daughter, the victim’s cousin. The defendant was responding to his daughter’s cries, and he originally came in to make sure she was sleeping soundly. After checking on his daughter, the defendant allegedly got into bed with the victim and sexually assaulted her.

The next day, the victim told her family members what had happened. She was taken to the hospital for forensic testing, and the defendant was charged with sexual conduct with a minor. At trial, a jury found the defendant guilty and he was eventually sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of release after 35 years.

The Decision

The defendant made several arguments on appeal. Notably, he argued that the prosecution improperly vouched for the victim and made comments to the jury that solely intended to evoke an emotional response. These comments, said the defendant, unfairly prejudiced him during trial and made the jury more likely to find him guilty. For example, at one point, the prosecution said to the jury that the victim was “attacked” on the stand for “a while,” making the jury more sympathetic to her as a result.

The court reviewed the trial record to figure out whether the defendant’s argument had merit. In general, said the court, when attorneys improperly appeals to jury members’ emotions, they blatantly encourage the jury to convict the defendant for reasons wholly irrelevant to the facts of the case. When the prosecution in this case made comments about the victim on the stand, it did not meet this high burden of blatantly encouraging the jury to convict the defendant. The comments did not unreasonably prejudice the jury, and the defendant’s argument thus should be denied.

Have You Been Charged with a Sex Crime in Arizona?

At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we understand that some cases seem impossible to win, but we bring creative and experience-based strategies to every case we take on. If you have been charged with a sex crime in Arizona, it is in your best interest to speak with a qualified, aggressive defense attorney that can walk you through your options moving forward. For a free and confidential consultation with our law office, give us a call today at 480-413-1499.



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