A common theme in Arizona domestic violence prosecutions involves the changing stories and testimonies of alleged domestic violence victims as a case progresses toward prosecution and conviction. Often, complaining victims may exaggerate or fabricate evidence of domestic violence in response to a domestic altercation, or to offset allegations of violence against themselves when law enforcement is called to the scene of a domestic dispute. Although domestic violence is never an acceptable response to a relationship or familial dispute, unfounded allegations of domestic violence sometimes result in severe, life-altering consequences to the alleged perpetrator, and sometimes also the alleged victim as well. The Arizona Court of Appeals recently affirmed a defendant’s aggravated assault conviction for a domestic violence crime, despite the victim’s attempt to recant her initial complaint to the police from the day of the alleged incident.
The defendant in the recently decided appeal was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after he allegedly strangled and assaulted the mother of his children during an argument between the parties. Although the visual evidence of strangulation was limited, the police and prosecutors were inclined to prosecute the charges based on the victim’s initial reporting to the police. As the case approached trial, however, the victim’s story changed, and she testified at trial that she was, in fact, not strangled by the defendant, insinuating that her initial report to the police was an emotional response to a personal argument between the parties. The victim’s trial testimony was not persuasive to the jury in their case, and the defendant was convicted of the charges. The defendant was then sentenced to 12 years in prison.
The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the statements made by the victim to the investigator should not have been admitted at trial, as they were hearsay. Furthermore, the defendant argued that the evidence at trial was not sufficient to support his conviction. The appellate court rejected the defendant’s arguments, finding that the victim’s statements were admissible at trial specifically because they were inconsistent with her testimony at trial. Additionally, the appellate court gave great deference to the trial judge’s determination that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction. As a result of the appellate rulings, the defendant will be required to serve his prison sentence.