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Understanding Your Right to Confront Your Accuser in a Rape Trial

Every criminal defendant has a constitutional right to confront the witnesses against them. Such rights are especially crucial in sex crimes cases, where the accuser’s testimony is often the single most critical piece of evidence introduced against the defendant. If there are any concerns about the credibility accuser’s testimony, it is critical for the defense to raise its objections as soon as possible during trial.

Court of Criminal Appeals: Defendant Failed to Expressly Raise Constitutional Objection at Trial

A recent decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Golliday v. State, illustrates how a delayed or improperly worded objection can be fatal to a defendant’s case. This particular case stems from a January 2016 incident in Taylor County. The accuser testified at trial that the defendant raped her.

To go into more detail, the accuser testified she was at her apartment drinking. She stepped outside and saw a group of neighbors smoking. She asked one of the people in the group–the defendant–to drive her to a nearby convenience store to get some cigarettes. The defendant obliged.

Upon returning to the apartment complex, the accuser said she invited the defendant “inside to have a drink and watch a movie.” After some time, they started “kissing consensually.” At this point, the accuser and the defendant’s stories diverge. The defendant testified they had consensual sex. The accuser testified “she asked him to stop” as he made “further physical advances,” but the defendant persisted, and eventually tore off her pants and underwear and proceeded to rape her.

At trial, the defense moved to introduce evidence regarding statements the accuser made to a sexual assault nurse examiner following the incident. Among other things, the accuser told the nurse that she was a “love addict” who “lead learned how to manipulate men” and that she’d taken prescription drugs together with alcohol on the night of the incident. The prosecution objected to the introduction of this evidence on hearsay grounds. The judge sustained the objection. Before the jury, the defense again tried to introduce the evidence regarding the accuser’s drug use while cross-examining the nurse, but the judge shut it down.

The jury convicted the defendant of sexual assault. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison, probated to community supervision. On appeal, the defendant argued the trial judge deprived him of his constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him by not letting the jury hear about the accuser’s statements to the nurse.

This led to extensive proceedings before the Texas appellate courts, culminating in the Court of Criminal Appeals decision. To make a long story short, the appeals court held the plaintiff failed to properly preserve his objection. While the objections presented to the trial judge revolved around the relevance and hearsay of the nurse’s testimony, at no point did the defense expressly raise a “constitutional argument for admitting the evidence.” Having failed to do so at trial, the defendant could not raise such objections for the first time on appeal.

Speak with a Galveston or League City Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

It may seem hyper-technical to uphold a rape conviction without considering the merits of a defendant’s constitutional argument. But that is sometimes how the law works. This is why if you are charged with a sex crime or sexual offense, you need to work with a qualified Houston criminal defense lawyer who will make every effort to assert your rights in court. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need immediate assistance by calling (281) 280-0100