The Appeals Court has denied a defendant’s request for a new trial after he was convicted on eight counts involving violence against his ex-girlfriend.
According to the court’s summary of the facts, the defendant and the victim were engaged in an off-and-on relationship that began in 2013 when they met through an online dating website.
During the course of their relationship, the defendant savagely attacked the victim on numerous occasions.
Here are just a few examples:
- on February 5, 2017, the victim was sitting on the defendant’s bed when the defendant rushed into the bedroom and punched her in the face, a single time, with a closed fist, giving her a black eye. Apparently, the defendant had seen a post by one of the victim’s friends and thought the victim was cheating on him. The defendant told her that if she went to the cops or left him, he would kill her children.
- On March 22, 2017, the defendant grabbed the victim’s head and smashed it against a doorframe five or six times. He yelled that he hated her and asked if she thought he was a fool. Two days later, she went to the emergency room because she was having dizzy spells and nausea.
- On October 13, 2017, the victim and the defendant were in bed. Without warning, the defendant jumped on top of her and headbutted her. Her eye swelled significantly, but she did not go to the hospital.
Numerous other alleged attacks were described in the court’s opinion. On at least two occasions the victim needed medical treatment due to her injuries.
Ultimately, the defendant was brought to trial and charged with multiple counts of (1) assault and battery on a family member, (1) assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and (3) threats to commit a crime.
A jury found the defendant guilty on the charges and prior to sentencing the prosecutor produced a victim impact statement written by the victim. The statement gave details of the abuse the victim suffered during her relationship with the defendant.
The defendant appealed the verdict arguing, in part, that the impact statement should have been provided to him prior to trial.
According to the defendant, there were inconsistencies between the victim’s written statement and her testimony. The defendant claims that these inconsistencies could have been used to impeach the victim’s testimony.
While the Appeals Court acknowledged that the prosecutor was mandated to give the defendant a copy of the statement prior to trial, it refused to reverse the jury’s verdict due to the error.
That is because the defendant’s attempts to use isolated portions of the impact statement to impeach the victim would certainly have led to the introduction of other portions of the document…Here, the Commonwealth would have been allowed to explore the context of the statement and highlight the reasons why the facts elicited in a lay witness narrative might differ from those elicited through the expert handling of an experienced prosecutor. Attempts to impeach through the victim impact statement would likely have led to the introduction of a number of statements quite harmful to the defendant’s case. The Commonwealth may have elicited that she “feared and continued to fear for [her] life and [her] family’s because . . . the defendant . . . threatened [her] family, saying that he would send [her] eldest son home in a body bag in pieces and [her] youngest son would be hanging by his genitals in a tree and skinned alive.” Or, the prosecution may have elicited that the victim was told that she was “ugly, fat, a terrible parent and that the only way [she]’d ever be able to leave the defendant[‘s] . . . house was after he had beaten [her] to the point of being unrecognizable with a fire extinguisher.” The list goes on.