How Does a Los Angeles Sex Crime Prosecutor Prove a Case?
This is a good question because a lot of people have a false view of how a sex crime case will be prove or prosecuted. I can’t tell you how many times people come into my office and say, well they don’t have any evidence against me so I don’t really understand why I’ve been arrested.
I don’t get it. And I’m like, wait a minute. Somebody must have said that you did something. Well, that’s not evidence. Well yeah, that actually is evidence in fact, there’s a jury instruction that says that if you believe the testimony of one witness and that witness appears credible to you, you can find the person guilty just based on one witness’s testimony.
So if someone is saying you did something inappropriate to them causing you to be charged with a sex crime and the prosecutors call that person as a witness and they testify under penalty of perjury as to what supposedly happened, if the jury believes them, you could be convicted of the sex crime or crimes you’re charged with as long as whatever it is they say meets the elements of the crime or crimes that you’re charged with. It’s as simple as that.
An example I give all the time in my office is, if I took a gun out right now and I pointed it at you and I told you to give me all your stuff, and you gave me all your stuff, and I say, all right, get out of my office and then you drove down to the local police department and say, hey Hedding went crazy.
He pointed a gun at me and took all my stuff. And in the meantime, while you were doing that I was calling my secretary in to tell her to take the gun and all of your stuff and throw it off the pier in Santa Monica and she went and did that.
The police come to my office and say, hey Hedding, did you threaten these people, point a gun at them and take all their stuff, and I look at them and say, no I would never do anything like that.
So, does that mean a crime wasn’t committed just because there’s no videotape; just because there’s no witnesses inside my office? Of course it doesn’t mean a crime wasn’t committed. It is going to be my word against their word.
Reviewing Credibility of Alleged Victim
So, I think this makes you start to understand how they can prosecute some of these sex crime cases, but it should also give you an idea how they can be defended as well, because now we’re going to look at the credibility of the alleged victim.
So, in my example, I might be able to say hey, I would never do that. I don’t know what’s the matter with these people, and in fact, I’m a criminal defense attorney. These people are in here. They’re being charged with a crime, so I wouldn’t believe them.
So, you see now how I’ve already started to attack the credibility of the alleged victim. Now the police are scratching their heads. The prosecutors are probably going to be scratching their heads when they’re thinking about filing the case.
Why would Hedding do something like this. He knows what the ramifications are of pointing a gun at somebody. So, now you start to see that even though they believe the person that I went crazy and pointed a gun at him, they could still prosecute me, but of course, the defense is going to try to attack the credibility of these complaining witnesses, think of a motive to lie and of course point out the fact why aren’t there any other witnesses?
Why is there no videotape? Why is there no gun found? Why aren’t their valuables found in my office if I really stole them? Why would I steal someone’s valuables and then just get rid of them?
So, the same goes for proving a sex crime case. They can use the alleged victim, but the prosecutors realize if it’s a he said/she said situation they might lose that case. The defendant may come up with some reasons why the alleged victim is making up these allegations against him or her. So, the prosecutors, realizing that already, are going to try to find corroborating evidence.
For example, were there any witnesses who saw what happened? Was there a motive for the person to do this? Another thing that they love to do when they’re investigating these sex crime cases, they love to make what’s called a “pre-text” phone call where they have the alleged victim call the person and say, why did you do that to me.
The police will sit there and listen to it. They’ll tape-record the conversation and now they can start to be in a position to get potential corroboration if the defendant is stupid enough to say some things that incriminate them relating to that particular victim.
So as far as how prosecutors are dealing with these cases, they’re looking for someone giving the information that sounds credible that some sort of a sex crime offense was committed and then they’re going to start looking for proof, corroboration, other evidence that supports what the alleged victim is saying because they already know that the defense is going to attack the credibility of the alleged victim, so they’re going to need some other evidence. Sometimes they can find it, sometimes they can’t.
Prior Bad Uncharged Acts
Another big factor in these sex crime cases and I’ve done a lot of them over 25 years, more and more they’re using Evidence Code Section 1108 to prosecute people. So, if other victims come forward, and the defendant hasn’t even been charged in the crime, and say he did something to them, then they can use those victims to try to get him for the current offense.
That kind of evidence is very difficult to refute, you know, when you have three or four women for example coming forward, saying that a particular person committed some sex crime offense against them and it’s something that’s bad or similar to what he or she is being charged with, that’s pretty powerful evidence.
There’s a lot of ways that prosecutors in Los Angeles investigate these sex crime cases, but obviously it’s going to be particular to what happened. So, I encourage you to come and sit down with me. We can go over your case and start to do some damage control on your behalf.