November 5, 2007
Improper Cross Leads To New Trial
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a conviction for first degree murder, kidnapping, sexual assualt and related offenses in a case involving a particularly brutal and vicious crime. The victim was raped, beaten and buried while still alive. A court majority concludes that the prosecutor's cross-examination of the defendant on past sexual misconduct was "substantially beyond the scope and reach of character evidence" and was "noticeably prejudicial." Although "[t]he facts in this case are difficult to comprehend" the error in the scope of cross-examination requires a new trial.
A dissent would find that the prosecutor's examination was proper in light of the defendant's contention that he was a good family man and not capable of such violence. The dissent is "simply shocked" at the court majority's result.(Mike Frisch)
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