Arizona Defendant Appeals Sex Trafficking Conviction Citing Inadmissible Evidence

In a June 2023 case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his conviction for sex trafficking. The defendant was charged after investigators discovered he was trafficking at least one young girl, and a jury found him guilty as charged. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court improperly admitted evidence relating to the typical characteristics of a pimp; the higher court, however, disagreed with the argument and kept the conviction in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, investigators approached a teenage girl one evening after they saw her walking up and down the street, conferring with men that were driving by. The officers noticed that she would talk to the driver, go and speak with the defendant (who was waiting nearby), then go back to the driver. When the officers approached the girl, she told them she was 16 years old and was a runaway. She also told them she was being trafficked and that the defendant was forcing her to give all of the money she earned as a prostitute to him.

The State charged the defendant with several crimes, one of which was sex trafficking. His case went to trial, and a jury unanimously found him guilty. The court sentenced him to 135 years in prison. The defendant promptly appealed.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant took issue with some of the evidence introduced at trial. One of the State’s witnesses was an expert on prostitution and sex trafficking. This expert did not know any of the facts of the defendant’s case, but instead offered general facts about the behavior of pimps and sex traffickers. According to the defendant, this testimony was irrelevant since it did not apply to the facts of his case. It also made the jury unnecessarily biased against him, and it should have been excluded from the trial testimony.

The court looked at the trial record to figure out if the evidence was properly admitted. Ultimately, the court decided it was acceptable for the evidence to come in at trial. The expert’s testimony was relevant in that it educated jurors on how pimps operate, and it rebutted the defendant’s claim that the girl was prostituting herself without his help or direction. For these reasons, the trial court was correct to admit the evidence, and the defendant’s claim had no merit.

The defendant’s convictions and sentences remained in place.

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