In a recent case before an appeals court in Texas, the defendant took issue with his conviction of continuous sexual abuse of a minor. The defendant was originally charged after his stepdaughter came forward to her school counselor, alleging that he had abused her multiple times. A jury found the defendant guilty, and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant argued the State should have been prohibited from introducing evidence that he threatened to kill his stepdaughter’s family, principally due to its irrelevance in the case. Ultimately, the higher court denied the appeal and affirmed the defendant’s original conviction.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the defendant met the young girl involved in this case when he began dating her mother. Eventually, the defendant married the girl’s mother, and the group moved into a house together. When the girl was 12 years old, the alleged sexual abuse began, and eventually, the girl disclosed the abuse to her school guidance counselor.
The State investigated, gathered details, and learned that the defendant had sexually abused his stepdaughter at least seven times over the course of a couple of years. The defendant’s case went to trial, and he was found guilty as charged. At his sentencing hearing, the defendant was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He promptly appealed.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the State admitted improper evidence at one point during the trial. Specifically, one of the State’s witnesses was an investigator with the county’s Child Assessment Center, and according to her testimony, the girl informed her that the defendant had threatened to kill her and her family. In the defendant’s view, even if this testimony were true, it was irrelevant and it painted him in a bad light. Upon hearing the testimony, the jury had reason to believe he was a violent person, and this assumption ultimately worked against him in the case.
The court, then, had to decide whether the testimony was relevant to the State’s case. Ultimately, said the court, the evidence was properly admitted because it helped explain why the girl was so afraid of her stepfather. There was a gap of time between the instances of sexual abuse and the girl’s reports of the abuse, which could be explained by the fact that the girl thought she and her family might be in harm’s way if she were to tell anyone about what had happened. Thus, the evidence corroborated the girl’s version of events and was relevant to the jury’s analysis of what might have happened.
Ruling on this issue, the court of appeals affirmed the defendant’s guilty verdict.
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