In any criminal trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys have to abide by certain rules. Laws dictate what evidence is allowed to be presented, who can testify in court, and what questions can be asked by either side. Occasionally, situations arise in which the rules become blurred. Usually, however, a judge or court sets things straight.
A good example of this occurred recently in a Wisconsin trial. An heir to the Johnson family fortune was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl a few years ago. The alleged victim, however, has refused to cooperate with prosecutors. In a criminal trial, if a victim does is not willing to work with prosecutors, he or she is not allowed to testify against the defendant at a trial. The judge in this case, however, was ready to bend those rules.
The girl refused to allow the judge to see her mental health records, but she apparently wanted to testify at the trial. As a compromise, the judge suggested that she be allowed to testify as long as the jury was told that she was unwilling to provide this information. Both sides, however, had a problem with this solution.
Prosecutors worried that the jury would assume the girl had something to hide since she would not provide her health records. The defense did not want her to testify. Ultimately, an appeals court upheld the law by ruling that she could not testify unless she provided the requested files. The trial will go on without her testimony, which may bolster the defendant’s case.
This case, like many other criminal cases, underscores the importance of working with an attorney who has an in-depth understanding of criminal law and the rules surrounding a trial. Having an attorney who can argue on your behalf if your rights are being violated by a judge’s ruling or a prosecutor’s conduct is imperative.
Source: Journal Sentinel, “State high court clarifies ruling in sex assault case,” Bruce Vielmetti, March 26, 2014