In a criminal trial with conflicting evidence, it is the role of the jury to resolve the evidentiary conflicts and arrive at a conclusion as to guilt or acquittal. On appeal, appellate courts do not consider whether they agree or disagree with the jury’s resolution of conflicting facts and evidence. Appellate courts review to determine whether there was evidence from which the jury could reasonably have reached its conclusions of guilt (jury acquittals are not appealable in the United States). In the recent case of State v. Pantaleon, M2012-00575-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Criim.App. 4-25-2013), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals concluded the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s convictions for rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery.
In the Pantaleon case, the Defendant was the husband of the victim’s father’s aunt, and a close friend to the victim’s family. The families often spent time together. The victim, age sixteen at the time of the trial, testified regarding multiple incidents of sexual abuse she claimed the Defendant perpetrated upon her in 2003, when the victim was around eight years old. The victim reported the abuse to DCS in 2003. The Defendant was interviewed by investigators and shortly thereafter left the state. Years later, the Defendant, who had been criminally charged, was apprehended in Michigan and was returned to Tennessee for trial.
During cross examination of the victim by the Defendant’s counsel, the victim was confronted with DCS notes from her original interviews, which indicated that she had originally accused the Defendant’s stepson, rather than the Defendant, of one of the abuse incidents which she had just testified the Defendant committed. The victim responded that the notes were incorrect and that she had always only accused the Defendant, and not the stepson.
The Defendant testified and denied the abuse. He acknowledged he made self-incriminating statements to the victim’s father and to investigators who interviewed him about the allegations. He explained he had falsely admitted misconduct because he was afraid and had never been in trouble before.
On appeal, the Defendant argued the victim’s testimony was unreliable due to its inconsistency with the DCS notes from her original interviews. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded it was the jury’s role to determine the credibility of the trial testimony and there was sufficient evidence presented from which they could conclude guilt.
For more information on sufficiency of criminal evidence, contact Hindman & Associates.