Domestic violence crimes are commonly charged in Massachusetts, and their prosecution often relies on the testimony of an alleged crime victim. It is more common in domestic violence cases for a victim to change their story as the case progresses. Victims regularly will recant the accusations made against their domestic partner in an effort to prevent the prosecution from going forward. State prosecutors are familiar with this pattern and work to secure enough evidence to support a conviction, even if the victim stops cooperating before a trial. A man recently convicted of domestic violence offenses appealed his conviction, arguing that the inconsistent testimony by the victim did not support the verdict.
The defendant in the recently decided case married the victim in 2009, and the parties were divorced in 2017. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the victim routinely suffered both physical and sexual abuse by the defendant throughout their relationship, and such abuse was sporadically and partially reported to authorities. Prior to 2015, the victim would make reports about the alleged abuse by the defendant but would then later recant her testimony, even submitting affidavits (drafted by the defendant or his attorney) requesting that the charges be dropped. In 2015, after the victim reported particularly serious injuries caused by the defendant, the current charges were brought.
The defendant stood trial on several charges, including aggravated assault, rape, sexual assault, and witness intimidation. After a trial in which the victim testified, he was convicted of several charges, while he was acquitted of other charges. The defendant appealed his convictions to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction and that his trial counsel was ineffective. The defendant specifically argued that his attorney should have made several objections to evidence, jury instructions, and the prosecutor’s closing argument at trial. The appellate court found that the defendant’s contentions had some merit; however, the court ultimately affirmed his convictions as the evidence was substantial and any mistakes by his trial attorney were not serious enough to change the outcome of the trial. As a result of the appellate decision, the defendant will be required to serve his sentence.