Evidence — or that lack of access to it — can be detrimental to a criminal defense. In a local example, an appeal filed with the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals challenges the credibility of the witness whose testimony could make or break the case for aggravated rape against a former University of Tennessee linebacker and his teammate.
The lower court denied the defendants’ request to obtain access to the victim’s digital communications, including text messages and social media, around the time of the incident. The judge did grant an appeal, however, which effectively put the criminal case in the lower court on hold. The appeals court will have to make a determination before the lower court can resume.
In the appellate brief they filed, the appellants claim that their accuser, the alleged victim, had been engaged in a sexual relationship with the linebacker for months before the alleged incident. Notably, the appellate brief claims that sexual relationship existed despite the fact that the accused was also dating someone else at the time.
The appellants also point to a separate witness account of the victim joking with both players after the alleged incident, at the same party where the victim claims the incident occurred. Finally, the brief filing points to the alleged victim’s social media account, which may have been closed in an attempt to hide information. The appellants claim that access to the requested evidence will support their assertions and is essential to their ability to mount a defense.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, “Court brief: Ex-Vol A.J. Johnson, rape accuser sex partners for ‘months’,” Jamie Satterfield, Aug. 16, 2016