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Court Determines if Jury Instructions Were Misleading


In the early 1970’s the rape law in New York required that the complaint of the victim had to be corroborated by a third person in order to obtain a conviction. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said this seems archaic these days and made it almost impossible for a rape victim to obtain justice against her attacker. In one case of a woman who was walking home from the bus stop late at night, a man with a knife followed her and forced her into an abandoned stairwell. He told her that he was going to rape her and forced her to undress while holding the knife to her throat and face. Once she was disrobed, he held his cigarette lighter up to her lady parts. She felt the heat from the lighter and fought to get away. He threatened her again at which time she stopped resisting for fear that he would cut her.

A neighbor in the area called the police because he saw the woman get shoved into the stairwell and reported that a robbery was in progress at that location. A police car with two officers responded to the area. The officers found the man still raping the woman. They arrested him and collected the cigarette lighter and the knife as evidence. They also noticed that the woman had a cut on her cheek from the knife, just below her right eye. The woman was transported to the hospital where a doctor performed an examination. He noticed that the victim had a cut on her chin as well and that there were physical signs that the rape was culminated.

At the trial of the man, the judge did not inform the jury that corroboration was required to convict on the crime of rape. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said the defense filed a motion to overturn the guilty verdict that the man received based on that fact. The defense claimed that it was a fatal error to not instruct the jury that corroboration was necessary. Their contention being that since no one saw whether the woman agreed to have sex with him or not, minus corroboration, the jury would have been unable to convict him of rape.

The Supreme Court disagreed. They felt that there was ample corroboration that the woman was raped based on the testimony of the police officers, the physical injuries, and the report from the doctor who examined her. Remember, in the early 1970’s the woman’s testimony did not hold enough weight on its own merit for a conviction. The Supreme Court stated that the only thing to consider at that point was whether the failure of the judge to instruct the jury that corroboration was necessary caused any prejudice against the defendant.

In evaluating this decision, a Nassau Sex Crimes Lawyer said the court considered the fact that there was a good bit of corroboration to the fact that the woman was raped. There was also no request made by counsel at the time of the trial to specifically instruct the jury on the rape charge. The justices contend that the law does not specifically require that the judge instruct the jury that a rape charge requires corroboration. It is enough that the judge hearing the case is able to determine that corroboration is present. The justices therefore, determined that there was not enough of an issue to require a reversal of the verdict.

One justice dissented from the verdict. He maintained that the testimony of the police officers and the doctor were not enough to establish corroboration. A Queens Sex Crimes Lawyer said he maintained that that the verdict should be overturned because there were no witnesses who could support the testimony of the victim about how she came to be in the stairwell with the defendant.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, you can allow the New York criminal lawyers to help you with convenient offices located throughout New York and the surrounding areas. Our New York sex crimes Attorneys will defend your rights in the event that you are arrested.

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