Articles Posted in Sexual Offense

When you find yourself as the defendant in a criminal trial, your very freedom often hangs in the balance. As a result, it is vitally important to be sure you have a Maryland criminal attorney on your side who knows how to put together an effective defense. “Effective defense” means many things, including making sure that potentially harmful expert witness evidence that is inadmissible is kept out of your case and prevented from causing you to endure a conviction as a result of an unfair trial process.

Expert witnesses can be very powerfully impactful on your case, whether they are prosecution experts negatively impacting your case or defense experts favorably influencing your case. Juries may often see experts as particularly credible and give their statements a high degree of weight. That means that, whenever possible, you should take advantage of opportunities to exclude expert evidence offered by the state. There are multiple different ways that an expert’s evidence can be inadmissible. E.M.’s sex-crime case was an example of one such scenario.

The state had charged the man with sex crimes related to contact with a minor. The state called a licensed social worker to testify about child sex abuse, grooming and a victim’s delayed reporting of abuse. E.M.’s legal team did not object to the social worker’s status as an expert. Instead, the defense used its cross-examination opportunity to quiz the social worker about false assertions of child sexual abuse, thereby raising seeking to raise a possible reasonable doubt regarding the truth of the alleged victim’s allegations. The social worker indicated, while on the witness stand, that only 2% of child sex abuse allegations were false.

Television courtroom shows often include dramatic moments when lawyers object to the other side’s evidence and the judge issues a ruling. Of course, these shows are often oversimplified or fictitious and designed for good storytelling, rather than factual accuracy. In reality, would you know when, and how, to object to prosecution evidence that the state sought to bring against you? Would you know what to do if the trial judge wrongfully granted an objection regarding the evidence you sought to bring in? Knowing how to handle these situations and more are just a few examples of how it pays to have skilled Maryland criminal defense on your side.

An example of these types of evidence battles, and the importance they can have on an outcome, was a recent case from Cecil County. J.D. was a man facing some very serious felony charges. J.D. and Y.D. had become romantically involved and moved in together at J.D.’s Maryland home. The household included J.D., his three children, Y.D., her son and her daughter. In 2015, Y.D.’s daughter made allegations against J.D. of repeated instances of sexual abuse over a period of several years. She asserted that she did not come forward sooner because she feared physical harm to herself and she worried it would adversely affect her mother’s relationship with J.D.

At his trial, J.D. sought to put his son on the witness stand. The son testified that the alleged victim was a disciplinary problem at home did not like living under the rules that J.D. imposed. The son testified that, after an allegedly stolen cell phone, the alleged victim became angry with the disciplinary decision J.D. made and was “yelling and screaming and saying things that she could do that would get him in trouble.” The son also sought to testify that the alleged victim was argumentative and “would not tell the truth about certain things.”

In 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.

Sometimes, 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.)

In 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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One 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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In 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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There 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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Small 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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Regardless 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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