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Impact of alleged victim's testimony in criminal defense strategy

By Daniel T. Geherin

When someone is facing allegations of sexual assault, one of the strategies to take in the case is to avoid a jury trial at all costs. This can be important because if a sexual assault case is allowed to proceed to a trial in front of a jury, the prosecutor in the case is almost definitely going to try as much as possible to play on the emotions of jury members. If the alleged victim, in particular, takes to the witness stand to testify against the alleged attacker, the jury members will be in an especially vulnerable position to form unfavorable impressions of the defendant - who is supposed to be viewed as innocent until proven guilty.

In a recent case involving sexual assault charges over in Kalamazoo, the alleged victim took to the stand and testified in a shocking level of detail. Fortunately for the defendant, this testimony took place at a probable cause hearing - not in front of a jury. However, the testimony was enough for the court to order the defendant to be held without bond as the criminal justice proceedings play out.

If this case goes all the way to jury trial, the fact that the alleged victim was willing to testify at the probable cause hearing makes it all but certain that she will also be willing to testify in front of a jury. This is not always true, as some alleged victims do not want to testify and "re-live" the alleged attack again.

Testimony from a witness can be a powerful piece of evidence in any case, but it can be especially impactful in a sex-related case being heard in front of a jury. These situations rarely go well for a defendant, even if the defendant is claiming that the sexual encounter was consensual. Jury members can get lost in the details, and if the details aren't flattering it can end badly for the defendant.

Ann Arbor criminal defense attorney Daniel T. Geherin is a board-certified former prosecutor with more than 25+ years of criminal trial experience who works tirelessly to protect his clients' rights.

Source: mLive, "'He was going to kill me': Woman describes sexual assault at the hands of Kalamazoo cab driver," Rex Hall Jr., Feb. 14, 2014