Arizona Defendant Argues Against Conviction for Sexual Exploitation of Minor, Leading Court to Overturn and Remand for New Trial

In an August 2023 case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant successfully got his convictions overturned by arguing that the prosecution showed the jury too many prejudicial images during the defendant’s trial. Originally, the defendant was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor. His case went to trial, and a jury found him guilty. On appeal, however, the higher court considered the defendant’s argument, overturned the conviction, and set the case for a new trial.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, a detective in Arizona made contact with the defendant as part of a local sting operation. The detective posed as a 13-year-old girl and responded to the defendant’s advertisement asking for sexually exploitative photos. During the pair’s communications, the defendant continuously said that he did not mind the girl’s young age and that he wanted to be sent pictures of the girl’s genitalia.

Eventually, the State obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s phone and apartment. The State found many exploitative photos of young girls on the defendant’s devices, charging him with two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. The defendant’s case went to trial.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that the State showed the jury photos that unnecessarily prejudiced them against him. For example, the jury members saw dozens of photos from the defendant’s phone that were not related to the conversation that was the basis of these criminal charges. The additional photos that the State showed the jury were extremely inflammatory toward the defendant – they showed the genitalia of underage females, as well as young children performing sexual acts. Because these images were not related to the specific charges at issue, argued the defendant, the State should not have been allowed to introduce them as evidence.

The higher court, looking at the trial court’s record, agreed. The jury would have obviously become disgusted upon looking at the photos from the defendant’s phone. While these photos may be the basis for an additional criminal charge in the future, said the court, they were not related to the issue at hand during trial. Therefore, the State’s use of the photos was unwarranted.

Siding with the defendant, the court overturned the guilty conviction and sent the case back down for a new trial.

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