Florida Court Discusses the Impact of Recantation of Testimony in Sex Crime Cases

In many Florida sex crime cases there is no direct evidence that a crime was committed. Instead the State relies on circumstantial evidence and victim and eyewitness testimony to establish its case against a defendant. Thus, if a witness in a sex crime case recants his or her testimony, it may necessitate a new trial. A Florida appellate court recently analyzed when the recantation of testimony is grounds for a new trial in a case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple sex crimes. If you are a Tampa resident charged with any sex crime, including sexual battery, it is vital to engage a skillful Tampa sex crime defense attorney to aid you in formulating a defense.

Factual and Procedural Background

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with several sex crimes, including indecent assault, sexual battery, and lewd and lascivious molestation. Following a trial, he was convicted on all charges. The alleged victim’s older sister, who was one of the State’s witnesses, recanted her testimony by stating in an affidavit that she advised a third sister the defendant was innocent. The third sister also signed an affidavit in which she stated that the recanting witness advised her that the defendant was innocent, but she was being pressured by detectives to testify on behalf of the State. The defendant subsequently filed a motion for post-conviction relief, based on numerous grounds including the recanted testimony. The trial court denied his motion. The defendant then appealed.

Impact of Recantation of Testimony

Under Florida law, the recantation of testimony is regarded as exceedingly unreliable. Thus, if a witness for the State recants his or her testimony, a new trial is only required if the court finds that the recantation is truthful and that the witness’s testimony will change so drastically that it would likely cause a different verdict to be rendered.

In analyzing whether a new trial should be held, the court must typically hold an evidentiary hearing in which it examines every fact of the case, including the testimony of any witnesses submitted via the motion for a new trial. If upon review the court finds that the recanted testimony is not true, however, it must deny the defendant’s motion for a new trial.

In the subject case, there was no physical evidence to support the State’s argument that the defendant committed the alleged crimes. Rather, the State relied on witness testimony, including the testimony of the recanting witness. On appeal, the court found that the recanting witness’ statements were not inherently unreliable, or so immaterial to the verdict so as to allow the trial court to reject the defendant’s motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing.

Meet with a Capable Tampa Sex Crime Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you live in Tampa and are faced with sex crime charges it is vital to meet with a capable Tampa criminal defense attorney regarding the circumstances surrounding your arrest and what evidence the State may introduce against you. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned Tampa sex crime defense attorney who will present an aggressive and compelling defense on your behalf. Mr. Hanlon can be reached at 813-228-7095 or through the online form to schedule a confidential and free consultation to discuss your case.