New sex crime bill in Texas could lead to wrongful convictions
Posted By Law Offices of Jeffrey C. Grass || 18-Apr-2013
Texas lawmakers have proposed a bill that would increase convictions of sex crimes against children, causing a debate between prosecutors and defense attorneys over the potential impact it would have on wrongful convictions and offenders' rights.
The proposed bill would allow prosecutors to use evidence from a defendant's prior offenses in new sex crime cases against the defendant. This would include being able to use accusations from other children against the same defendant.
Under the bill, prosecutors would have to prove to a judge that there is enough evidence to prove the defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." During this determination, the judge would hold the hearing without the jury to see if the previous accusations are strong enough to present in front of a jury.
Prosecutors support the bill, saying that it will help them prosecute more child sexual assault cases because there is often no DNA or physical evidence to use in these cases so they have to rely on accusations from the victim. Prosecutors say that being able to use prior accusations can show the jury that the defendant has been accused before and has previously been linked to this type of criminal behavior.
While there is a lot of support for the bill, opponents include defense attorneys who say that the bill could infringe upon a person's right to receive a fair trial. Opponents question whether this bill would lead to more wrongful convictions since they would be based off accusations instead of physical evidence.
Defense attorneys say that current sex crime laws protect both victims and innocent people accused of crimes because it makes it difficult for prosecutors to convict someone without evidence but it also protect innocent people from being wrongfully convicted.
The bill is still being considered by lawmakers in Texas but if the bill is passed and signed into law, defense attorneys expect more people may be convicted of sex crimes against children solely based off testimony from children without any proof of physical evidence.
Source: The Texas Tribune, "Prosecutors, Defenders Spar Over Child Sex Crime Bill," Maurice Chammah, April 9, 2013
Categories: Sex Crimes, Sexual Assault, Child Sex Crimes