Monday, September 10, 2012

Increasingly Conservative New Jersey Supreme Court Get’s It Wrong with Affirming the Conviction of J.A.C.

The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of defendant, “J.A.C.”, in State v. J.A.C., when he was convicted of first degree sexual assault of a minor. 

In this case the alleged victim (“C.A”) claimed that J.A.C. has sexually assaulted her two years prior to the allegations.  In this case the alleged victim was caught by her parents engaging in explicit sexual language with 17 adult males.  After she was caught she was told by her parents that she would be sent to live with her Father in the mid-west as punishment for her behavior.  Fearing the punishment C.A. stated to her parents that she had been sexually abused by her Mother’s boyfriend two years before.

The defense attempted to use these prior emails and instant messages for two reasons.  First, to show that C.A. had made up the story of being sexually abused by J.A.C., to deflect attention from her behavior to that of an innocent third-party, J.A.C., in the hope of avoiding the relocation, and second, to explain her familiarity with sexual topics.

The prosecutor objected to the use of these emails under the guise of the Rape Shield Law arguing that a minor’s use of sexually explicit text messaging, or “sexting” should be excluded, as prior sexual conduct.

The trial court engaging in the balancing test ruled that although the jury could hear that C.A. was sexting with other adult males, they could not learn of the explicit sexual language that she was engaged in.

The Supreme Court affirming that decision ruled that
sexual instant messages constituted sexual conduct protected under the Rape Shield Law as codified under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-7(f).  Therefore, the trial court did not err in depriving the defendant his right to present his defense as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Accordingly, the defendant was deprived of presenting the most important evidence that C.A. had a motive for lying.  In New Jersey it is well settled that 404b evidence is available to both the state and the defense, and the defendant should have been allowed to avail himself to this important 404b evidence to show that C.A. had a motive to make a false allegation against the defendant.

In this case the jury heard the alleged victim’s story, and the jury was left with the perennial question. “why would this victim lie?”  The jury never had the opportunity to hear why she might have lied, and the defendant accordingly, was denied a fair trial.  Further, the jury never learned that C.A. had not learned about sex from the defendant, but was well versed in it prior to meeting the defendant, thus debunking the alleged victim’s credibility.  Further, this evidence could have been offered on behalf of the defense as intent evidence, which could lead the jury to the reasonable inference that C.A. was engaged in conduct that could be considered sexual aggression. 

In the final analysis it is respectfully submitted that this was a terrible decision because the rights of an accused to a fair trial was eviscerated. 

It is difficult enough for a defendant in these types of cases to get a fair trial and find open minded jurors who will listen to the evidence fairly and not make predetermined decisions as to guilt, without adding the additional burden on the defendant of taking away evidence which might lead to his or her acquittal.  Protecting victims in the criminal justice system is no doubt important, but no less important is the protecting of the criminal accused in this same system.  In this case the Rape Shield Law was not used as a shield to protect the alleged victims past history of sexual engagement, but rather, as a Rape Sword to cut off the defendant from having a fair trial and allowing the defendant from telling the complete story to the jury.  After all it is the jury that must make the decision as to guilt or innocence, and the courts had no business interfering with that decision making process by withholding important vital evidence, no matter how much it hurts the prosecutions case.

A writ of certiorari should be filed with the United States Supreme Court.

Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.
A New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
277 North Broad Street
Union County
Elizabeth, New Jersey 07207
Telephone: (908) 354-7006

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