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Is an Accuser’s Testimony Enough to Send a Person Charged with a Sex Crime to Prison for Life?

Sex crimes involving child victims often draw the harshest penalties under Texas law. For example, the offense of continuous sexual abuse of young child or children is a first-degree felony. This means that if convicted, a defendant faces a potential life sentence–or at a minimum, at least 25 years in prison.

Houston Court Upholds 50-Year Sentence for Man Convicted of Sexually Abusing Ex-Partner’s Child

What exactly does “continuous” sexual abuse mean? Under the statute, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed “two or more acts of sexual abuse” over a period of “30 days or more” against a victim that was under the age of 14. In many cases, the testimony of the victim themselves is sufficient to meet the state’s burden.

Indeed, in a recent decision from right here in Houston, Mumphord v. State, a state appeals court upheld the conviction and 50-year sentence of a man charged with continuous sexual abuse of his former partner’s child. At trial, the accuser testified that when she was 12 years old, the defendant “began sexually abusing her.” More precisely, she said the defendant sexually abused her “15 times” between the ages of 12 and 14.

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Before the appeals court, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against him. He maintained that the accuser’s “uncorroborated” testimony failed to establish multiple acts of abuse over a period of 30 or more days. The appeals court disagreed. It noted that “well established” law in Texas holds that “a child-sexual-assault complainant’s uncorroborated testimony, standing alone, is sufficient to support a defendant’s conviction.” In this case, the accuser offered detailed accounts of specific acts of abuse–and more importantly, when they occurred.

Furthermore, the appeals court said the prosecution did introduce corroborating evidence, in the form of testimony from the accuser’s mother. The mother said her daughter informed her of the defendant’s abuse in 2013. There was also a video of a forensic interview conducted with the accuser.

But even without this corroboration, the appeals court said the jury was still free to believe the accuser’s testimony, which included what she said about “when the abuse occurred and how old she was when it occurred.” Ultimately, it is the role of the jury–not the appellate court–to weigh the relative credibility of witness testimony. The defendant’s conviction therefore stood.

Contact a Houston Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

It is a mistake to think that a jury will simply “not believe” an accuser or that the state needs to provide additional evidence to corroborate an accuser’s testimony. Particularly when the allegations involve the sexual abuse of a child, the odds are often stacked against the defendant. That is why it is crucial to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will zealously represent your interests if you are on trial for a sexually based offense. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in League City, Galveston or Houston today if you need to speak with a lawyer right away. Call (281) 280-0100