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Challenging eye witness accounts in sexual assault cases

The rules of evidence were created to limit the introduction of prejudicial evidence, and to ensure that the evidence that was allowed had some substantive impact on the matter at hand. Despite this very noble goal, evidence that lacks scientific validity, substantive currency and, worse of all, evidence that biases the jury is introduced on a regular basis. This is especially true in cases involving sex crime charges.

According to a recent report, a 33-year-old New Jersey man from Matawan was indicted last week for allegedly committing multiple sex offenses. The prosecution has accused him of attacking a 49-year-old Matawan woman and a 31-year-old Aberdeen woman. The Matawan man's arrest followed a four-month joint investigation by the Aberdeen police, Matawan police and the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office.

A New Jersey grand jury indicted the man on aggravated sexual assault charges, attempted aggravated sexual assault, burglary and criminal restraint charges. If he is convicted on the aggravated sexual assault charge, he could face up to 20 years in prison, followed by supervised release and a lifetime of registering as a convicted sex offender. The man is currently being held at Monmouth County Correctional Institution.

While many forms of evidence can be used in court, prosecutors often rely on eyewitness testimony to convict alleged sex offenders. According to numerous studies, however, eyewitness testimony is incredibly unreliable. This is particularly true in cases where the witness was under stress. Understanding this fact, and knowing how to limit the impact such evidence on a jury. is the role of any good defense attorney.

Source:, "Matawan man indicted on sexual assault, burglar charges," Ashley Peskoe, May 23, 2013.

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