How Houston Juries Resolve “He Said/She Said” Rape Cases
September 20th, 2017 by Tad Nelson in Sex Crime
Rape trials often come down to the conflicting testimony of the accuser and the defendant. Even though prosecutors must prove all elements of their case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” it is still possible to convict a person charged with rape in a “he said/she said” scenario based primarily on accuser testimony. As far as most Texas judges are concerned, the jury is free to weigh the credibility of both parties and decide who is more believable.
Accuser’s Testimony Is “Sufficient Evidence” to Support Conviction
Consider this recent sexual assault case from here in Houston. The defendant and the accuser are former spouses. About a year after the parties’ divorce, the couple had sexual intercourse. The accuser said it was sexual assault. The defendant said it was consensual.
At trial, the accuser testified that the defendant used “physical force or violence” against her, which is a critical element of sexual assault. Specifically, she said he “pulled down her pants and underwear” and then proceeded to “open her legs with pressure as he got on top of her” and engaged in intercourse. The defendant denied using any force and said the accuser “fabricated” her story as part of an ongoing child custody dispute.
In addition to the parties, a police officer and nurse testified for the prosecution. The officer had spoken with the accuser shortly after the alleged rape, telling the jury she was “crying and shaking.” The nurse, who examined the accuser that same day, offered similar testimony.
The jury found the defendant guilty. But perhaps in recognition of the limited evidence, the jury also recommended a sentence of probation, which the judge agreed to. The defendant still appealed his conviction.
The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals rejected the appeal, holding the verdict was supported by “sufficient evidence.” The prosecution only needed to prove that the defendant used “compulsion” against the accuser, the Court noted, and her testimony did just that, notwithstanding his alternate account of what happened. “As evident from the verdict,” the Court said, “the jury did not believe that the complainant fabricated the sexual assault.”
Have You Been Accused of Rape?
As the case above illustrates, you should never just assume that an accuser’s testimony will not enough to sustain a conviction for rape, much less an arrest. Police and prosecutors tend to believe the accusers in this situations, even if there is no physical or other corroborating evidence. That is why it is imperative to work with a qualified Houston criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of rape or sexual assault. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston, or League City if you need to speak with an attorney right away.