Attorney Niles Illich, Ph.D., recently obtained a major appellate win. Our client was convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child, sentenced to life in prison, and fined $10,000. On appeal, Niles Illich argued that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the verdict. The appellate judges agreed, reversed the trial court's judgment, and ordered a new trial for the lesser offenses of aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child.
The appellate court's decision is substantial because it is typically difficult to get courts to move on these types of cases. These matters receive much attention and are emotionally charged. However, the court saw our reasoning and accepted Illich's argument.
The Basis of Our Appeal
One of the essential elements of continuous sexual abuse of a child is that the alleged offenses occurred for 30 days or more. Thus, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's conduct met this element. They must also demonstrate that two or more acts of sexual abuse occurred against a child under 14 years of age.
We argued that the evidence presented at trial was not enough for the prosecutor to meet their burden. Specifically, we stated that nothing in the testimonies given proved that the alleged sexual abuse happened for 30 days or more.
According to the alleged victim, our client engaged in oral copulation and sexual penetration with her when her brother went to jail. However, the exact date her brother was incarcerated was never concretely established. Both the investigator handling the case and the alleged victim's sister testified that the brother was sent to jail around June 10, 2018. But they qualified their statements by using phrases such as "around," "about," and "give or take." Such qualifiers do not establish a set date on which the alleged sexual abuse began; instead, they cast doubt as to when the offenses started.
Additionally, even if it were established that the victim's brother was incarcerated on June 10, 2018, that does not mean the alleged sexual abuse began then. Thus, even though the date the abuse ended was determined (July 26, 2018), the offenses must have occurred on or before June 26, 2018, for them to fit into Texas's legal definition of continuous sexual abuse of a child (specifically, conduct lasting for 30 days or more). But the testimony provided does not give factual evidence to support a start date. Instead, it was such that jurors could merely speculate on when the alleged offenses began.
Because the evidence did not sufficiently determine dates as to when the victim's brother went to jail or when the alleged offenses occurred, we argued that the verdict was based on unsupported inferences. The appellate court decided in our favor, and our client will get a new trial for lesser offenses.
At Scott H. Palmer, P.C., our team in Dallas does what it takes to help clients seek favorable outcomes. We know that a conviction does not always mean the end of a case, and options may be available to pursue a different result. We thoroughly review every detail of a legal matter to protect our clients' rights and freedoms.
If you've been charged with or convicted of a crime, contact our attorneys at (214) 891-3382 or online to discuss your legal options.