Can a Jury Convict Me If Domestic Violence Even If the Accuser Recants?
September 12th, 2019 by Tad Nelson in Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a serious matter under Texas law. In some cases it can lead to felony charges and put a defendant in jail for well over a decade. So it is critical that every piece of evidence is carefully considered by the jury before it reaches a verdict.
Appeals Court: Jury Allowed to Disbelieve Spouse’s Trial Testimony Recanting Earlier Allegations Against Husband
Now, you might think a person charged with domestic violence is sure to obtain an acquittal if the accusing witness retracts or recants their allegations in open court. But that is not always the case. Ultimately, it is up to the jury to weigh the credibility of any witness. And this means the jury can choose to disbelieve a recantation in favor of the original allegation.
Here is an example of a recent Texas case where this happened. In Finch v. State, Texarkana prosecutors charged a defendant with family violence assault. The accuser is the defendant’s spouse.
On the day in question, an eyewitness said the defendant and his spouse had an argument in his presence. At one point, the witness said the defendant “put his arm around her neck” and dragged her out of the witness’ home “in a headlock.”
That same day, the spouse went to a nearby store and told a manager she needed to call 911. The spouse told the 911 operator that she required immediate assistance “because she was afraid that [the defendant] would come in, find her, and kill her.”
A police officer responded to the scene. The officer later testified in court that the spouse was “frantic, crying, scared, and adamant.” The officer further observed “marks and bruises” on the spouse and took photographs of her injuries. The spouse later spoke to police, as well as medical staff at a nearby hospital, in which she described the defendant’s assault.
Yet when questioned at trial, the spouse recanted. She said she “had been sleep deprived and under the influence of many drugs when she reported these incidents.” She maintained the injuries photographed by the officer were caused by another person and that she “made up the story about” the defendant attacking her because she was mad at him.
The jury chose to disbelieve the recantation. It found the defendant guilty of family violence assault. Because the defendant had a prior conviction for domestic violence, the jury sentenced the defendant to 15 years in prison.
The Court of Appeals rejected the defendant’s claim there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The defendant focused on the spouse’s recantation. But as the appeals court explained, the spouse’s testimony at trial was rebutted by her prior statements to the police, the eyewitness testimony, and the fact the spouse was still married to the defendant. Based on “common sense” and their own life experience, the jury “had a sensible basis for thinking [the spouse’s] recantation testimony was unreliable and for believing her original allegations instead.”
Speak with a Galveston or League City Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Today
Many people charged with domestic violence think they can make the criminal charges “go away” if they somehow convince the accuser to change their story. But that is not how the law works. This is why you should always work with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you are accused of domestic violence and need immediate legal assistance. Call (281) 280-0100 .