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How Far Can Houston Sex Crimes Prosecutors Go in Referencing My Past Criminal Record?

A common prosecution tactic in sex crimes cases is to introduce evidence of the defendant’s “bad character,” such as a prior criminal conviction. Not all such evidence is admissible under Texas law. A judge has the discretion to exclude any character evidence that has no bearing on the current charges, or which might simply serve to prejudice the jury against the defendant.

Court Rules 1988 Convictions Relevant in Present-Day Child Sex Case

But when it comes to sex-based offenses–particularly those where the accusers are children–Texas judges often tend to err on the side of admitting character evidence. For example, the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston recently upheld the conviction of man charged with two acts of “indecency with a child” where the jury learned the same defendant was convicted of similar crimes 29 years earlier.

In the present case, prosecutors charged the defendant with inviting two girls–ages 7 and 10–to his apartment where he “touched their genitals.” The girls informed their respective parents, who took them to the Harris County Children’s Assessment Center, where a forensic interviewer took their statements and conducted physical examinations.

As mentioned above, at the defendant’s subsequent trial the prosecution raised the issue of his prior criminal record. Specifically, the defendant was convicted of two separate incidents of “indecent behavior” with two girls–ages 8 and 10–while living in Louisiana in 1988. The jury never heard the details of these prior bad acts. The evidence presented consisted exclusively of fingerprint records from the prior case–which confirmed it was the same defendant–and the transcripts of the convictions.

The jury found the defendant guilty. On appeal, he argued the trial judge should have excluded the evidence of the Louisiana convictions. The appeals court disagreed and affirmed the jury’s verdict.

Although the Court of Appeals acknowledged that 29 years elapsed between the Louisiana and Texas trials, and that such “[r]emoteness can lessen significantly the probative value of extraneous-offense evidence,” this alone “does not require the trial court” to exclude such evidence. And in fact, the similarities between the defendant’s 1988 convictions and the present-day charges–indecent acts involving young children–support the trial court’s decision to admit the evidence.

Furthermore, the 14th District noted such evidence was necessary to the prosecution’s case. Without the Louisiana convictions, the Court noted, the state’s case “State’s case essentially would come down to the word” of the two accusers against that of the defendant. Even the testimony of the parents and the forensic interviewer only “basically repeated” what the children told them.

Contact a Houston Sex Offenses & Sex Crimes Lawyer Today

Again, not all evidence regarding a defendant’s prior convictions are admissible at trial. This is why it is critical to work with a qualified Houston sex crimes defense attorney who will vigorously oppose any effort to unfairly prejudice a jury against you. Call (713) 802-1631 or contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you have been charged with any type of sex crime and require immediate legal assistance.