Friday, June 08, 2007

NY Appeals Court Reinstates Overturned Rape Conviction

The original appeal of the conviction in the rape case against Burton Jeffrey Hunter, 38, was based on the prosecutors not disclosing that the alleged victim (17 at the time) had previously reported a similar crime against another man. At the time of the trial the other case was pending, but in 2003 resulted in a plea deal.

In January 2006, Rensselaer County Judge Patrick McGrath, in a stern rebuke of the district attorney's office, ruled in Hunter's favor and vacated the conviction, released him on bail and ordered a new trial. McGrath found that prosecutors purposely withheld crucial evidence, called Brady material, from the defense.

Supreme Court Appellate Division justices Thursday reversed McGrath, arguing the information "does not constitute Brady material which could be used at a retrial of the charges against defendant to impeach the complainant's credibility."

The justices also said, "We do not, however, condone the people's failure to disclose the material prior to or at defendant's trial."

To me the only way a prior report should be allowed would be if it had been proven in a court of law that the alleged victim made a deliberate false report. A lack of conviction -- even at trial -- doesn't mean that the allegations weren't true. And it shouldn't mean that this victim should become an easier target for sex criminals or defense attorneys. To allow the defense attorney to attempt to impeach the alleged victim for the mere act of reporting more than one assault is unjust.

If all crime reports by an alleged victim should be admissible then so should all crime reports by and against the alleged criminal. I doubt defense attorneys would go for this since the overall conviction rate would likely go up significantly as a result.

More details of the case are available here.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:21 PM   1 comments links to this post


At June 11, 2007 10:16 AM, Blogger sailorman said...

prior history of a criminal is often technically barred.

However, it often comes in (for a variety of reasons) and sometimes it is fully admissible anyway. Often, prior arrests (not only conviction) and prior accusations (not only convictions) also come in against the accused.


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