Articles Posted in Sexual Offense

Courtroom witness standIn any criminal jury trial, it is the job of the jury to determine whether or not the accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes assessing the credibility of various types of evidence, including the testimony of an alleged victim. In other words, the jury must decide which testimony is believable and which isn’t. That responsibility falls solely on the jury and any trial where that task gets shifted to someone else is improper and may allow a convicted defendant to obtain a new trial. Whether it is improper expert opinion testimony or other inadmissible evidence, it is important to be armed with the arguments you need to keep out such proof, which is why it pays to have skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel in your corner.

An example of such an improper process occurred in the trial of a man in Charles County. J.F. was accused of sexually abusing his daughter three times when the girl was between five and eight years old. The first trial ended in a hung jury. In the second trial, the vast majority of the evidence the state had against the father was out-of-court statements by the daughter and the daughter’s trial testimony.

This wasn’t all of the evidence that the state presented, though. The state also called a counselor as an expert witness. The examiner testified that the girl displayed no “signs of fabrication” and that she had no concerns that the girl’s out-of-court statements accusing the father were the result of coaching or otherwise weren’t true. The jury eventually convicted the father.

spyingSometimes, in popular media, you might run across people who criticize the operation of the American justice system. They complain about accused people who avoid punishment due to what they think are “technicalities.” Sometimes, though, those issues aren’t minor technicalities at all; they are results of critical errors by the prosecution, like charging the defendant with a crime of which the elements do not match the facts of the case as established at trial. When these things happen to you or a loved one, it is important to have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to protect your rights.

One recent case that originated in Washington County served as an example of the facts not fitting the crime charged. The defendant, David, was on trial facing some very serious allegations. According to the state’s case, David had installed a secret video camera in the only bathroom in his home. David then allegedly used that camera to capture his 15-year-old daughter in various states of partial and total undress.

David acknowledged the installation of the camera but asserted that his interest in conducting video surveillance of the bathroom was not a prurient one. David allegedly was concerned that another family member was doing drugs in the bathroom. Alternatively, the father allegedly believed that the daughter was “sexting” her boyfriend while she was in the bathroom. (The daughter acknowledged on the witness stand that she had, in fact, sent the boyfriend partially unclothed pictures of herself from the bathroom.)

calendarIn your Maryland criminal trial, there may be multiple different options and tools available to you under the law to enhance your defense. Knowing what all of these are, and how to use them, is one area where the assistance of skilled Maryland criminal defense counsel can be invaluable. In a recent case involving a double-rape charge, the defendant got his conviction overturned because he advanced both state and federal speedy trial arguments, and, while the delay in his case didn’t violate the Sixth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, the Court of Special Appeals determined that it did violate the state law deadline for speedy trials.

The case involved a man accused of raping two teens in January 1982. The state indicted the man on Feb. 19, 1982. The defendant and his lawyer made their first appearance in court on April 19, 1982. The defendant made a proper motion for a speedy trial in May. The rules for a speedy trial require that the state try a defendant within 180 days of the defendant appearing in court or a lawyer representing the defendant making an entry of appearance on behalf of that defendant. In this case, both things happened on April 19, so the state’s deadline was October 15.

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DNA testOne of the most valuable evidentiary tools in some criminal cases today is DNA testing. For some defendants, a DNA test result can be the key to proving innocence. For others, while not establishing innocence, a favorable test result can at least be a valuable piece in raising reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt. A recent case addressed the very important question of when a defendant is entitled to a DNA test, and the answer to that question helped get the judgment against the defendant vacated.

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tattoo artistIn a criminal case, there are several things a defendant must do to strengthen his case and give himself a good chance at an acquittal. One of these things is reducing the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. One way to do that is to introduce previous statements that the state’s witness made that are contrary to what the witness stated on the stand at trial. In one recent sex crime case from Montgomery County, the defendant obtained a new trial on appeal after the trial judge in his case improperly refused to allow him to put on evidence of prior inconsistent statements made by one of the state’s key witnesses.

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nurseThere are several ways to get a criminal conviction in Maryland overturned on appeal. One way is to establish that the prosecution was allowed to introduce improper testimony on an essential issue of the case. This is what happened recently in one rape-and-assault case. A nurse, who was brought in as a lay witness, gave opinion testimony despite never having been authorized as an expert witness. That entitled the defendant to a new trial, according to the Court of Special Appeals’ ruling.

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handcuffsSmall details can make big differences in the outcome of your criminal trial. In the case of one Maryland dentist accused of a sex crime, a very specific detail ultimately was the key to his obtaining a reversal of his conviction. Since the state had no evidence that the dentist interacted with a minor child or a police officer posing as a minor child, the dentist could not be convicted for sexual solicitation of a minor child, according to a recent Court of Special Appeals ruling.

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gavelRegardless of the number or the severity of the crimes charged by the state, the law imposes certain protections against improper overcharging by prosecutors and over-sentencing by courts. In one recent case decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, a man convicted of sexually abusing a girl across a four-year period could be charged under the Maryland statute that makes carrying on a continuing course of sexual abuse of a child a crime, but the law only allowed the state to charge him with one violation of this crime, not 10 violations, since his continuing course of abuse involved only one victim.

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ASL interpretersWhen you are put on trial for a criminal offense, the constitution guarantees you certain rights. One of those constitutional guarantees extended to accused people is the right to confront accusers. But what happens when a language barrier exists, and an interpreter is involved? That was the situation for a Baltimore man accused of multiple counts of sexual assault. The man’s trial produced a conviction, but the Maryland Court of Special Appeals threw out that conviction due to violations of the man’s constitutional rights. The man, who is deaf, was not allowed to examine at trial the sign-language interpreters who were involved in translating his statement to police. That ruling denied the man a fair trial and required a reversal of the conviction.

The case stemmed from the alleged sexual abuse of several female students at the Maryland School for the Deaf between 2008 and 2011. In December 2012, police questioned Clarence Taylor about the abuse. Taylor was deaf and did not speak English, nor did he understand spoken English. During Taylor’s five-hour police interview, communication was facilitated through the use of a pair of American Sign Language interpreters. Using a system known as “relay interpretation,” the police detective would ask her question, and the two interpreters would translate that information into sign language. Taylor signed his responses, and the interpreters translated them into English.

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telephone-1468226In criminal cases, law enforcement personnel employ a variety of different methods to gather evidence against an alleged “suspect.” One such strategy includes the use of wiretapping and electronic surveillance in an effort to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications. Both federal and state laws govern the use of wiretapping surveillance in criminal cases. Under Maryland’s wiretapping law, citizens are afforded a greater degree of privacy than under the federal wiretap law. If evidence in your criminal case was obtained via a wiretap or other electronic surveillance, it is vitally important that the intercepted communication was obtained within the confines of the law. For help with this aspect of your case, as well as any other legal issue, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.

In a recent Maryland Court of Appeals case, the petitioner challenged the State’s method of obtaining evidence from a recorded phone call (monitored by the alleged victim), with equipment provided by a detective with the Montgomery County Police. Here, the victim alleged that he had been sexually abused by his step-uncle (petitioner) during the summer of 1982. Thirty years after the alleged sexual abuse took place in Maryland, the victim (who now lives in West Virginia) sought help from staff at a police station in Rockville. After describing the abuse to a detective, the two made several calls to the alleged perpetrator in an attempt to elicit an admission or confession.

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