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New York Family Court Discusses Evidence in Juvenile Rape Case


On February 4, 1972, the Family Court of the City of New York, New York County made a unique decision in this sex crime case concerning the Penal Law that a defendant may not be convicted of rape ‘solely on the uncorroborated testimony of the alleged victim.’ (P.L. 130-15). In this case, a 13 year-old boy had been accused of raping two different girls. He was allegedly preparing to rape a third girl before her mother intervened. The corroboration question of a rape victim’s testimony has been criticized over the years for the depreciation of the female victim’s credible testimony compared with that of a male. In this case, the testimony of the three individual girls corroborated the testimony of each other.

In this case, two of the girls testified that they had been raped. The court ruled that the girls had ample time to observe the boy. During each of the sex crimes, the boy was on top of each of the two girls for over one-half hour with his penis inserted in each girl’s vagina at different times.

The corporation counsel argued that there was a common plan in all three of the alleged rapes in this case. The alleged rapes were said to occur in two adjacent apartment-house developments within a ten day period in a similar way. Corporation counsel attempted to prove that all three victim’s identification of the defendant corroborated one another’s testimony, proving that the sex crimes were part of a scheme or plan. In 1971, Section 279 allowed the consolidation of two or more indictments charging that crimes were part of a common plan, or that they were similar in character. In another case, People v L, three victims had been allegedly raped at different times and places, but in a similar manner. In this case, the court upheld the joinder in one indictment of three charges of rape.

In the case involving the three girls and the 13 year-old defendant, all three crimes were committed in a similar way. Virginia, age 14, called her mother to buzz the front door of the apartment building open when she arrived at home. When she opened the door, the defendant pushed his way through the door after her. Rachel, age 11, called her friend’s mother who buzzed the door open for her. The defendant followed her into the building. Rachel, 14 years old, used a key to open the door. The defendant followed her in as she tried to shut the door. The respondent followed all three girls into the elevator, put his hand over her mouth and his arm around her throat as he held an open knife about five inches from her chest. He then forced the girls to go to the top floor of the building and take the stairway up to the roof landing. Then the girls were told to undress completely. The boy placed the girls’ clothes on the window ledge in the same fashion in all three cases.

When Virginia’s mother realized that it was taking her daughter longer than usual to get up to their apartment, she ran up to the roof landing and found her daughter standing up with her shoes and socks on, but the rest of her body was naked. In the cases of Elizabeth and Rachel, the girls were commanded to lie down while the boy kept his clothes on and his pants unzipped to expose his protruding penis. Each girl was then told to get dressed and was warned that she was not to tell anyone what had happened. Each of the mothers testified that their daughters had been very upset after the incident, and both girls had bleeding in the vaginal area.

During this sex crime trial, Virginia’s mother was the only person who could have corroborated the victims’ testimony as to the respondent’s identity. She testified that she was too upset at the time and that the assailant ran past her so quickly that she could not be absolutely sure of his identity. All of the mothers had instructed their daughters to be absolutely sure of the boy’s identity before naming him as the assailant. The Court determined that each girl’s testimony was credible and that the respondent was her assailant since they each had enough time to observe him.

The only direct identification came from the three victims. The question was whether the likelihood that the same male who committed the crime against one of the girls committed the same crime against the other two. The other factor that needed to be determined by the Court was whether Elizabeth could serve as corroboration of Rachel’s identification of the rapist and whether the other two girls’ identification could serve as corroboration of Elizabeth’s. It was determined that the likelihood that the same boy perpetrated the acts existed, and so there was sufficient corroboration of each girl’s identification of the respondent.

Virginia was not raped, but the Court heard the case on the crime of sexual abuse. The Court concluded that corroboration did not need to be a factor in Virginia’s case. The Court also found that the evidence in her case proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the respondent committed the sex crimes. He was also convicted of possession of a dangerous instrument, menacing, and coercion in Virginia’s case.

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