On September 4, 2009, J M was convicted of one count each of first degree rape, third degree rape, attempted criminal sexual act in the first degree and attempted criminal sexual act in the third degree. Mr. M appealed his conviction to the New York State Supreme Court Appellate, Second Division based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
According to trial records, Mr. M was charged with raping a 16-year-old girl who frequently baby sat for him and his girlfriend in their home. The girl claimed that Mr. M raped her one evening when she stayed overnight at the residence.
In reviewing Mr. M’s case, the appellate court found that his criminal defense attorney failed to prevent prejudicial evidence from being admitted at trial. Specifically, the girl’s mother testified that two of Mr. M’s girlfriend’s nieces were often present in the home and that their personalities and behavior changed seemingly overnight. One girl, she stated, became mean and angry while the other became very promiscuous. These statements had the effect of implying that Mr. M had inappropriate sexual contact with the two girls, suggesting to the jury that he had a predisposition for committing sexual acts with minors. Mr. M’s attorney objected to the statements on the grounds that they were hearsay but never raised any objection regarding their prejudicial nature. The defense also never requested the judge to instruct the jury to consider the information within a limited scope.
Mr. M’s girlfriend stated on cross-examination that her daughter had dreamt that he was sexually abusing her. The prosecutor asked her if she believed that it was a coincidence that her daughter had had such a dream and that another girl was now accusing Mr. M of rape. Defense counsel again objected but said nothing about the testimony being prejudicial. This objection was overruled and the testimony was allowed. The statements offered by Mr. M’s girlfriend implied to the jury that he had potentially raped her daughter and that he had a prior history of sexually abusing young children. Defense counsel again failed to file a request for a limiting instruction to the jury regarding the girlfriend’s statements.
The appellate court found that there could be no legitimate reason or trial strategy which would excuse or explain defense counsel’s failure to object to the prejudicial testimony. Furthermore, the court held that the admission of the testimony deprived Mr. M of his right to a fair trial since the statements admitted into evidence may have caused the jury to believe that he had a previous history of inappropriate sexual contact with young children, which may have caused them to unfairly evaluate the evidence in the case at hand. As such, the appellate court opted to reverse Mr. M’s conviction and remand the case for a new trial.
As evidenced by this case, choosing the right criminal defense attorney can make all the difference when attempting to prove your innocence in the face of sex crimes charges. Mr. M’s defense counsel effectively circumvented his own case by not objecting to testimony which case his client as a sexual predator.
If you or a loved one has been charged with sexual abuse, rape or other inappropriate sex crimes involving minors, you need to contact an experienced New York criminal defense attorney right away. The law firm of Stephen Bilkis and Associates is committed to aggressively defending the rights of individuals charged with sex offenses. Call 1-800-NY-NY-LAW today to speak with a member of our criminal defense team. You may also visit one of our many New York area offices to discuss your case in person. Don’t let a conviction for a sexual offense ruin your life. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates today to get the professional legal representation you need to prove your innocence.