Is a Jury Allowed to Hear from Other Accusers in a Child Sex Crimes Case?
February 26th, 2019 by Tad Nelson in Sex Crime
As a general rule, prosecutors cannot show that you committed a crime by pointing to other bad acts you might have committed in order to prove you are capable of committing the charged offense. But there is an important exception to this rule. When charged with a sex offense or sex crime against a child, Texas courts can allow a jury to hear such “extraneous offense” evidence.
Now, there are some critical caveats here. Before the prosecution can present such evidence, they must give the defendant at least 30 days notice. The trial judge must also conduct a hearing outside of the jury’s presence to decide if the proposed evidence “will support a jury finding that the defendant committed the separate offense beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Houston Appeals Court Upholds Use of “Extraneous Offense” Evidence
Here is an example of how these rules work in practice. This is taken from a recent decision by the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston. In this case, Yepez v. State, the prosecution charged the defendant with the crime of “indecency with a child.” The defendant worked as a second-grade teacher. The accuser was one of his students.
The accuser’s mother started to notice her daughter was having “hygiene issues,” specifically soiling her underwear. When questioned, the accuser “broke down crying” and told her mother she had been sexually molested by the defendant during the previous school year. Several months later, a grand jury indicted the defendant on the indecency charge.
At trial, the judge allowed the jury to hear testimony from a second witness who said the defendant molested her in 2002. This witness was not one of the defendant’s former students. She was the sister of a woman who was then dating the defendant. The witness testified the defendant molester her “when she was 11 or 12 years old.”
The trial judge determined this testimony “was sufficient to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed an extraneous offense, i.e. that he committed “indecency with a child” against the witness.
The jury convicted the defendant, who received a 15-year prison sentence. On appeal, the defendant challenged multiple rulings made by the trial judge, including the decision to admit the extraneous offense testimony from the second witness. The 14th District overruled the defendant’s objections and affirmed his conviction and sentence. The appeals court noted that without the witness’ testimony, the defendant “could have argued more forcefully that this case was simply one of ‘he-said, she-said,’” whereas with the extraneous offense evidence the jury “was able to assess [the accuser’s]s accusations considering [defendant’s] character for attraction to young girls.”
Speak with a Galveston or League City Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
When you are accused of a sex crime or sex offense, your entire past history may also be put on trial. That is why you need to work with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who understands the legal system and will fight to protect your rights. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at (281) 280-0100 if you have been charged with a sex crime and need immediate assistance.