A woman who lived alone in an apartment in Manhattan called her boyfriend who lived in the Bronx. She said that a man was in her apartment. The man (the accused) had knocked and asked her if she could help him find the man who had raped his wife and pushed her down the stairs thus suffering a miscarriage. The woman asked the man to speak with her boyfriend on the telephone. A New York Drug Crime Lawyer said that the boyfriend talked with the man for about five minutes. And then the man put the phone down. The girlfriend came back on the line and hastily said goodbye to her boyfriend.
The boyfriend, alarmed, hurried to her girlfriend’s apartment. He asked the building superintendent to open the door. He found his girlfriend lying lifeless with a knife stuck in her abdomen in a pool of her blood. A panty hose was tied and knotted tightly around her neck. Her lingerie drawer was open and her underwear was strewn all over.
The police soon came and found a hair on the woman’s mouth. The investigators determined that the woman was strangled and the bones in her neck had been broken.
The hair the investigators found was compared on a microscopic level and was found to match the hair of the man who had earlier pleaded guilty to six rapes. The rapist was indicted for the woman’s rape and murder.
A few days after the rape and murder of the woman the woman’s handbag was found without her personal valuables and money.
At the trial, the district attorney called the rape victims who all described the similar means by which they and the murdered woman were all raped. A New York Drug Possession Lawyer said all women were single and lived alone in their apartments. All the women allowed the accused to enter their apartment because they were moved with pity at his story of looking for the man who assaulted his wife or girlfriend. All of the women were threatened at knifepoint. Before raping all the women, the accused rifled through their lingerie drawer. Some of the women were made by the accused to change into different underwear before he raped them. The man wrapped a panty hose around the women’s neck. Three of the raped women lived within the same block of the murdered woman.
Four of the raped women described the man’s voice. The murdered woman’s boyfriend who talked with his girlfriend’s rapist and murderer also testified as to the man’s voice: all of them said that his voice was soft-spoken.
The two men who lived shared an apartment with the accused both testified that before the rape the accused did not have any money to share with the rent cost and barely ate. A Nassau County Sex Crimes Lawyer said that after the rape, the accused treated one of his roommates to a movie and to dinner. The roommates also testified that the man was not home at 9 pm (which was the time of the woman’s rape and murder).
The man was convicted he appeals his conviction on the ground that the evidence produced against him was all circumstantial. There was no eyewitness to the murder. He also objects to the admission of the testimony of the six women he had admitted raping. He claims that the testimony of the women prejudiced the jury against him because the rape women’s testimony showed his predisposition to commit rape.
The only questions before the Court were: whether or not the conviction was proper given that the evidence produced by the prosecution against the accused was merely circumstantial; and whether or not the evidence of his prior rapes prejudiced the jury against him.
A Queens Drug Possession Lawyer said the Court held that the general rule is that evidence of prior crimes is not admissible to establish the crime presently charged if the only connection between the prior crimes and the present charge is a similar means of committing the crime. The exception to this general rule is when the similar means of committing the crime is logically enough to identify the accused as the perpetrator then the evidence is admissible.
The means used by the accused in committing all the six prior rapes and the crime of felony murder (when in the course of committing a rape, the victim is killed) under the present indictment are all logically unique, it became his signature. His means of committing all the six crimes were not only similar the details were strikingly consistent.
The question, according to the Court, begs itself to be asked: if the means of committing the crimes were so strikingly similar, why were all the victims of the six prior rapes alive and the woman here in this case who was raped was murdered? The Court answered in that the accused had not counted on the woman calling the boyfriend. This small happenstance created a sense of panic in the accused that he had to hurry because the boyfriend might arrive anytime soon. The stabbing of the victim in this case stands out in contrast with the former rapes as well: the woman was already dead from the strangling there was no need to stab her. He may have been frustrated.
The Court further emphasized that when evidence of the former rapes show the identity of the person committing the present charge as one and the same, then it is admissible. Not only was there evidence of similarity of details in committing the offense but the former rape victims as well as the boyfriend of the victim in this case all consistently described the voice of the accused as “soft-spoken.”
The Court affirmed the conviction of the accused.
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