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The post below was published on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 at 10:00 AM.

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Chief Judge Ramirez: Anything Goes, But It Shouldn’t

Chief Judge Ramirez began his dissent to this per curiam affirmance with these words:

This case can go down under the “anything goes” department when it comes to a criminal prosecution of an unsympathetic defendant. All you need is a trial judge with a flexible outlook on what constitutes relevant evidence and an appellate panel with a bountiful view of trial court discretion.

The case involved a man, Torres, charged with sexual battery on a young girl, N.R. During his trial, the state presented Williams rule testimony from a 20-year-old woman who asserted that Torres sexually abused her when she was 7. Most important to Chief Judge Ramirez, the witness testified not only to the abuse but to how the abuse traumatically impacted her life–including how she did not trust men and would not be alone with them.

Finding no basis for the admission of such testimony, Chief Judge Ramirez stated:

I have no sympathy for Torres. He is an admitted sex offender who preyed upon a seven year old girl. He probably also abused N.R. If we, as a society, decide that sex offenders are not entitled to a fair trial, let’s come out and say so. But if the rules of evidence apply equally to all, as we profess they do, this victim impact evidence was clearly inadmissible. The only issue should be whether the admission of this evidence constituted harmless error. And I cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that the admission of this evidence did not contribute to the jury verdict.

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