How Texas Prosecutors “Throw the Kitchen Sink” at Sex Crimes Defendants
March 26th, 2019 by Tad Nelson in Sex Crime
When it comes to sex crimes allegations, Houston-area prosecutors are generally not just confined to presenting evidence of the alleged criminal act itself. The state may introduce evidence of other potential crimes that sheds light on “the character of the defendant and acts performed in conformity with the character of the defendant.” However, this evidence must “support a finding by the jury that the defendant committed the separate offense beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Houston Appeals Court Rejects Constitutional Challenge to “Extraneous Offenses” Evidence
In a recent decision, Washington v. State, the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston rejected a constitutional challenge to the admissibility of extraneous offense evidence as described above. The defendant in this case was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. At trial, the prosecution presented evidence of multiple extraneous offenses, including a prior conviction for sexually assaulting a child and testimony from three other witnesses who alleged the defendant abused them. The jury found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.
On appeal, the defendant argued that allowing all of this extraneous offense evidence effectively deprived him of the presumption of innocence and reduced the state’s burden of proof. The 14th District disagreed. It noted the law includes a number of procedural safeguards–such as requiring at least six months notice of the state’s intentions to introduce such evidence–which were followed in this case.
Admission of Defendant’s “Jailhouse Masturbation” Records Not Improper
In a separate issue, the defendant argued that the trial judge improperly allowed the prosecution to present the jury evidence taken from his jail disciplinary records. Specifically, during cross-examination the prosecutor asked the defendant, “Have you ever masturbated in front of anyone?” The defendant admitted he had done so while in jail. The prosecution then introduced records showing that jail officials had written up the defendant twice for masturbation.
Defense counsel objected, both at trial and on appeal, arguing there was no relevance to this evidence, which was unduly prejudicial towards the defendant. The trial judge overruled the objection. The appeals court said that even if the trial judge was wrong, the error was legally “harmless,” given the remaining “evidence supporting the verdict was strong.”
The appeals court also noted that the prosecution did not actually show the jurors the jail records, although it did make reference to them during closing arguments. The trial judge further instructed the jurors that they could not consider the relevance of the records for purposes of assessing the defendant’s character or truthfulness.
Speak with a Galveston Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Today
In a sex crimes case, prosecutors will often try and throw the proverbial kitchen sink at the defendant. This is where having an experienced, professional Houston criminal defense attorney at your side can prove critical to your case. If you have been charged with any type of sexual crime or sexual offense, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today. We assist clients throughout the Houston, Galveston, and League City areas.