Can I Be Convicted of Domestic Violence Even if the Accuser Recants in Court?

September 27th, 2018 by Tad Nelson in Domestic Violence

It is often said that Galveston domestic violence cases are “he said/she said” affairs. But there are many situations where the accuser changes her story. Sometimes the accuser is afraid of publicly confronting their abuser. In other cases, the accuser fabricated the initial allegations to “get back at” the defendant for some reason. But regardless of why or how the accuser changes her story, the question remains: How does this change affect the defendant’s rights at trial?

Appeals Court Upholds Conviction, 1-Year Sentence Despite Change in Accuser’s Testimony

You might think that if an accuser recants her story on the stand–when she is under oath–that would be enough to create “reasonable doubt” in the minds of the jury. But that is not how the criminal justice system works in Galveston and other parts of Texas. Juries may rely on other circumstantial evidence, including the accuser’s original story, and still convict the defendant of criminal charges related to domestic violence.

Here is a recent case on point, Zuniga v. State. This case began with a 911 call. A woman–the accuser–told the operator she had been assaulted by the defendant, who was the father of her children. A police officer dispatched to the scene interviewed the accuser. The officer recorded this interview, in which the accuser again stated the defendant assaulted her, using his body camera.

But testifying at the defendant’s trial, the accuser recanted. Under oath, she admitted she “lied” about the assault. Rather, she was upset the defendant had attempted to end their relationship “for good,” and out of anger she said she injured herself and called the police to get the defendant in trouble.

Despite this testimony, the jury still found the defendant guilty of “assault-bodily injury” with a finding of family violence. The trial court sentenced the defendant to one year in jail and ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine. On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury’s decision.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict, however, explaining the jury was entitled to find the accuser’s “spontaneous” statements to law enforcement on the night of the alleged assault was “more credible” than her subsequent testimony at trial. The appeals court noted that “[i]t is not uncommon for victims of domestic violence to recant their accusations.” Ultimately, it was “up to the jury to accept all, some, or none” of the testimony offered and reconcile any conflicts as it saw fit.

Taking Galveston Domestic Violence Charges Seriously

It may seem unfair that a person could be sent to jail on the basis of recanted accuser testimony. But cases like the one above illustrate just how serious any domestic violence accusation is for the accused. If you have been charged with family violence of any kind, you need to act quickly to assert your constitutional and legal rights–starting with contacting an experienced Galveston criminal defense attorney. The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates helps individuals throughout the Galveston area deal with domestic violence allegations. Call us today at (281) 280-0100 if you need immediate assistance.

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