Last Friday the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed a conviction for indecent assault and battery on a child over the age of fourteen and assault with the intent to commit rape of a child. The reason: prosecutorial misconduct based on an improper closing argument.
At the time of the crime the victim was fifteen years old. She testified that she and the defendant became acquainted at her school bus stop. The defendant would drive up to the bus stop and talk to her ultimately convincing her to skip school and go the mall with him. She ultimately agreed and got into his car believing that the two were headed to the mall. The defendant stopped at an apartment purporting to change his clothes. He went into the bathroom and when he returned he pulled down his pants and tried to make her perform oral sex on him. He then held her down, grabbing her breasts and pulling her underwear down. The victim resisted and advised the defendant that she was having her period. The defendant stopped his attack and drove the victim back to school. The defense suggested that the victim lied about the assault and that she and the defendant consensually went to the apartment to kiss. In her summation the prosecutor vouched for the victim’s credibility asking the jury why she would come into court four years later to tell this story to a group of strangers (the jury). The defense lawyer objected. The trial judge overruled the objection and the jury convicted the defendant.
Reversing the verdict the Appeals Court held that “[a] prosecutor may not . . . suggest to the jury that a victim’s testimony is entitled to greater credibility merely by virtue of her willingness to come into court and testify.” This tactic is an improper effort to bolster the credibility of a witness. The Appeals Court also held that since the victim’s credibility was the key factor in the case the error was not harmless.
Commonwealth v. Ramos, Slip Opinion March 13, 2008.
Attorney Stephen Neyman is a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer with over twenty years experience defending all crimes including Sex Crimes. He has successfully defended people accused of sex crimes in Lawrence, Lowell, Salem, Newburyport, Quincy, Brockton and in many other cities and towns throughout Massachusetts. If you have been charged with a sex crime in Massachusetts call our office at 617-263-6800 or contact us online now.
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