Arizona Defendant Unsuccessfully Appeals Sexual Assault Conviction Based on 1991 Incident

In a November 2023 case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant appealed convictions of burglary, kidnapping, attempted sexual assault, and sexual assault. The alleged incident occurred in 1991, and the defendant argued on appeal that the State’s late introduction of evidence during trial had adverse effects on the case’s outcome. According to the defendant, the lower court should have granted his motion for a mistrial. Considering the defendant’s argument, the court ultimately sided with the state, ruling that the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the complainant in this case was in her house one evening when a man came into the house unannounced, tied her up, and sexually assaulted her. The man warned the woman that he would kill her if she called the police. Eventually, after the man left, the woman was able to get to a phone, and she called 911. First responders took her to the hospital and arranged for DNA samples to be taken from the woman’s body.

The case went unresolved, as investigators were unable to come up with any legitimate suspects. The DNA swabs from the woman’s hospital visit, however, remained at the DNA testing site for 23 years. By 2014, DNA testing had significantly advanced. Investigators therefore reopened the case, ran the DNA through the system, and connected it to the defendant in this case.

The defendant was criminally charged, and his case went to trial. A jury found him guilty of burglary, kidnapping, attempted sexual assault, and sexual assault; the defendant appealed.

The Decision

At the end of the 11-day trial, the defendant had moved for a mistrial; essentially, he argued that because some of the evidence related to his DNA was not introduced until halfway through the trial, he was entitled to new proceedings. The defendant argued that he did not have proper notice of the new evidence and that the late timing was detrimental to his case.

The court considered the defendant’s argument but ultimately rejected it. Ultimately, said the court, there was no evidence that the State tried to hide the evidence until partway through trial; it seemed as though the State genuinely did not have the evidence in question until it disclosed it. Furthermore, the DNA evidence at issue only supported other evidence on the record about the defendant’s guilt, and it did not significantly affect the outcome of the case.

The court therefore denied the defendant’s appeal.

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