A female civilian employee at a correctional facility was walking down a hallway reserved for civilian employees only. Suddenly a man came up behind her and put his hand over her mouth. The woman struggled to free herself and asked the man what he wanted. He did not reply. He then slammed the woman down and she lay on her belly on the floor. The man pushed a sock or towel in to her mouth but the woman struggled and the sock/towel fell out and she screamed.
A New York DWI Lawyer said the man put the sock/towel in her mouth again and pushed it into her throat. All the time, the man was behind the woman so she did not see his face. He straddled the woman and started tying her hands together. The woman struggled again and managed to free her hands. She bit the man but the man overpowered her when he grabbed her hair and managed to pin her down once more.
Unknown to the woman, the man who was tying her up had already ejaculated in his pants even before he could pull the woman’s clothes off. His semen was found on the sock/towel which was shoved into the woman’s mouth. It was on the back of the woman’s shirt and on the inmate’s prison clothes.
A male co-employee of the woman heard her scream and went to look for her. A New York DWI Lawyer said he saw the man straddling his co-worker who was lying prone on the floor and the man was tying up his co-worker with strips of white cloth. The man ran toward the male employee and the male employee tripped the inmate. They engaged in a brawl and the male employee had his head bashed against the wall.
The inmate went running out toward the yard as the male employee sounded the alarm. The guards in the yard asked the inmate what he was doing in the yard and he couldn’t explain himself coherently. He was profusely sweating, he was panting and when the male employee came out to the yard accompanied by the guards, he identified the inmate as the one he saw tying up the hands of the civilian employee.
The sock/towel, the strips of cloth and the tape were all gathered and compared to the sock/towel, strips of cloth and tape which were all found in the one-man cell occupied by the inmate.
The female employee suffered bruises and abrasions all over face and arms. The male employee suffered a concussion. The District Attorney filed charges for attempted rape in the first degree, assault in the second degree.
During his trial, the inmate refused to be represented by a lawyer. He represented himself. The inmate was in the correction facility serving a prison sentence of 25- 50 years for conviction on two counts of rape in 1996, sodomy, robbery and burglary. During the trial, the inmate asked that he not be shackled. The judge agreed but the judge insisted that he wear leg irons. The court offered to put a curtain around the desk for the defense so that the jury will not see that he was wearing leg irons but the court reasoned that the inmate will not be able to go near the judge for sidebars without the jury seeing the he was in leg irons so the court did not put curtains around the table for the defense.
The trial proceeded without any comment or objection of the accused and the jury saw the leg irons wore by the accused.
During the cross-examination by the inmate of the female employee, he asked the female employee if he ever groped her private parts. The female employee said he did not. The inmate also asked her if the inmate tried to insert anything in her private parts and the female victim answered in the negative.
The inmate also cross-examined the doctors who testified as to the injuries sustained by the male and the female employees if the injuries were serious enough to have likely caused their death and the doctor testified that the injuries were not serious enough to cause death.
The jury convicted the inmate on all the charges of attempted rape, assault with intent to rape. The inmate appealed his conviction to the Appellate Division on the ground that the trial court judged seriously erred when he allowed him to appear before the jury in leg irons. He claimed that this prejudiced the jury against him. The Appellate Division upheld the conviction for assault with intent to rape but reversed the conviction for attempted rape. The Appellate Division however granted the People the right to appeal from its reversal of the attempted rape conviction.
On appeal to the New York Supreme Court, the Court held that ordinarily, an accused should not be allowed to appear in court before a jury while shackled because the accused has a right to be presumed innocent. A Nassau County DWI Lawyer said if the jury sees him in shackles, the jury may be influenced to think that he is guilty even before they hear the evidence against him; or the jury will be prejudiced to think him predisposed to guilt because he is in shackles.
The Court also held that this rule has exceptions as when the accused has been convicted of other crimes and is serving a sentence for violent crimes and now stands charged anew with crimes committed during the service of his prison sentence. There is also an exception when the court feels that the security of persons in the courtroom is best served by keeping the accused in shackles. The Court held that these two exceptions were present in the case and the trial court would have been correct in ruling to keep the accused in shackles but the Court also emphasized that the trial court erred only when it failed to make a written ruling of his findings and his decisions to keep the accused in leg irons during the trial.
The Court also held that while the trial court committed error, the error may be harmless if the Prosecution can prove that the shackling of the accused did not prejudice the jury against him.
The Court held that in this case, the evidence of the inmate’s guilt was overwhelming that the jury would have found him guilty even if were or were not in leg irons during the trial.
Moreover, the Court opined that the jury understood from the facts of the case that the accused was an inmate of a jail and would have concluded that he was in leg irons more for preventing his escape than it was because he was guilty or capable of violence.
The Court also ruled that the reversal by the Appellate Division of the attempted rape conviction was error. There was sufficient evidence that had the male employee not interrupted the inmate, he would have succeeded in raping the female employee. The Court cited the evidence: the inmate came prepared with a sock/towel and strips of cloth and tape to restrain the female employee. The inmate was seen several times in the corridor loitering: he was obviously waiting for the female employee. He also already ejaculated even before he could undress or penetrate her. His semen was found in the back of the female employee’s shirt and on the inmate’s prison uniform. From these pieces of evidence, the intent to rape can be inferred. Thus, it is not unreasonable to also infer and conclude that the assault was not only with intent to rape, the inmate attempted to rape the female employee and would have succeeded if he had not been interrupted by the male employee.
The Court upheld the conviction of the accused for the assault with intent to rape and reversed the Appellate Court’s order reversing his conviction for attempted rape. The case is remanded for sentencing.
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