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Can Prosecutors Prove Domestic Violence Even With Contradictory Eyewitness Testimony?

Once police respond to a report of possible domestic violence, any evidence they legally obtain may later be used to prove that a crime occurred. This evidence need not include accusatory statements from the alleged victim. Indeed, even in cases where the alleged victim has denied–under oath–that any domestic violence took place, a judge or jury is free to credit other evidence suggesting that it did.

Man Convicted of Assaulting Stepdaughter Even After She Recants on the Stand

Take this recent decision from the Texas Third District Court of Appeals, Uhler v. State. This case began when police responded to a 911 call reporting possible domestic violence. The key witnesses, in this case, were the defendant, his wife, his stepdaughter, and their neighbor.

The neighbor told the police that she “heard an argument” coming from the defendant’s residence. She said she saw the stepdaughter “holding a stick,” and that the stepdaughter and the defendant “struggled for control” of that stick. Eventually, the neighbor said the defendant took the stick and held it in the air “as though he was going to use it to hit someone and then [swing] the stick in the direction of his wife.” The neighbor added, however, that she never actually saw the defendant hit anyone with the stick.

Nevertheless, when police arrived they noticed an injury to the stepdaughter’s head. The stepdaughter initially told the police the defendant had hit her with the stick. The police subsequently arrested the defendant and charged him with family violence assault.

At trial, however, the stepdaughter testified that the defendant never struck her with the stick. Instead, she said she had been standing behind her mother, the defendant’s wife. The wife had picked up the stick with the intent to hit the defendant, but as she moved the stick backward to take a swing, she accidentally struck her daughter in the head. The stepdaughter said she initially blamed the defendant because she was mad at him, but after she had calmed down she realized the defendant never hit her.

The defendant elected to have a judge try his case without a jury. The judge found the defendant guilty. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to support that verdict. The Court of Appeals disagreed. Despite the fact that the defendant, his wife, and his stepdaughter all testified that he did not hit the stepdaughter with a stick, there was sufficient evidence produced from which the trial court could still find the defendant guilty. The Tenth District pointed to the neighbor’s testimony as well as footage from a police officer body camera, which included statements made by the stepdaughter and the wife during the initial response, where they said the defendant had committed the assault.

Contact a Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

There is a common misconception that a domestic violence charge will “disappear” if the accuser recants or changes their story. That is not how the law works. If you have been arrested on domestic violence charges, you need to be prepared for trial. If you need advice or representation from an experienced Houston domestic violence defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.