Arizona Court Denies Defendant’s Appeal Based on Mistreatment During Trial

In a recent opinion from an Arizona court, a defendant’s convictions and sentences were affirmed after he unsuccessfully argued that his trial was unfair and that he should receive a new verdict. Originally, the defendant was convicted after exposing his penis to a minor and involving a minor in a drug offense. In its opinion, the court disagreed that the defendant’s trial was unfair and concluded that the defendant’s verdict should be affirmed.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant is an adult male who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS) and whose right side of the body is largely non-functional. In April 2018, the defendant had his fourteen-year-old daughter take photographs of his penis so that he could send photos to her friends and to “know what they thought of his penis” in light of the MS. A few months later, the defendant provided marijuana in a pipe to one of his daughter’s friends, a neighbor who was fourteen years old.

The defendant was convicted for three counts of indecent exposure, one count of furnishing harmful material to minors, and one count of involving a minor in a drug offense. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial was not properly conducted and that he should thus be afforded a new verdict.

The Decision

In his appeal, the defendant first argued that the prosecutor made unnecessary statements that drew the jury’s attention to his failure to testify. At various points during the trial, the prosecuting attorney said to the defendant that there was “no evidence” proving that anyone took photos of his penis besides his daughter. By continuing to use the phrase, “no evidence,” the prosecutor made it seem as if it was the defendant’s responsibility to bring in additional evidence that he was not actually required to bring in. The court disagreed, saying that by pointing to the defendant’s lack of evidence, the prosecutor was simply making his case in a proper and reasonable way. As long as the prosecutor was not explicitly pointing out to the jury that the defendant was not testifying, said the court, the statement was within reason.

Secondly, the defendant argued that there was no evidence that he either possessed a prohibited substance or that he knew his fourteen-year-old neighbor was under the age of eighteen. In response, the court said that it had plenty of evidence proving the defendant possessed marijuana – after arresting the defendant, a detective collected a silver smoking pipe with marijuana residue from the scene. In her testimony, the defendant’s neighbor asserted that the pipe was the same one the defendant had given to her. What’s more, the court pointed to incidents in which the defendant had explicitly stated he knew the neighbor’s age to be fourteen years old.

Lastly, the defendant argued that the prosecution should not have been permitted to share details about his life with the jury that he viewed as irrelevant. Specifically, the defendant took issue with the government introducing evidence that the defendant sometimes made comments to other people assuring them that despite his disability, he had functioning genitalia. The court disagreed with the defendant’s argument, saying the introduction of these statements did not overly bias the jury; instead, it gave the jury insight into the defendant’s mindset while he was committing the crime.

Having disagreed with all three of the defendant’s arguments, the court denied the defendant’s appeal and his request for a new trial.

Are you Facing an Arizona Sex Crime?

If you are facing an Arizona sex offense, do not give up hope; there are defenses you can raise that may result in an acquittal. To understand your options, it is important to hire an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney who is familiar with these particularly challenging cases. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we are prepared to walk you through your options and ensure that your voice is heard. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 480-413-1499.

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