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Pennsylvania Appellate Court Overturns Sexual Assault Convictions

Individuals accused of sex offenses, including rape charges, sex crimes against children and Internet sex crimes, face steep challenges. A conviction means serious criminal consequences, but even the notoriety of an investigation and prosecution can destroy a person's reputation. For these reasons, an aggressive and persistent criminal defense is crucial.

A recent Superior Court of Pennsylvania decision reveals the value of exhausting a client's options even if the trial court returns a guilty verdict. A three-judge appellate panel unanimously overturned a conviction of three men for sexual assault, indecent assault and false imprisonment based on an incident at West Chester University in 2009.

The most unusual feature of the appellate panel's decision was its rejection of the jury's findings. Based on their review of trial transcripts and motions, the judges wrote that it was "manifestly unreasonable to view the evidence, including [the victim's] actions and those of the appellants, and conclude she did not consent" and determined that no reasonable jurist could allow the guilty verdict to stand. Notably, the three men had been acquitted at trial of several other charges, including rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and criminal conspiracy.

The Superior Court decision vacated the convictions and remanded the matter to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. The three men were expected to be released from Pennsylvania state prisons in Cresson and Albion, where they had already served a considerable portion of their two-to-four-year sentences. Chester County prosecutors are threatening further appeals, and all three men face the possibility of a retrial, but the defendants' legal prospects have take a considerable turn for the better.

Fighting for a Client's Rights from Arraignment to Release

The consequences of an erroneous criminal conviction are particularly unjust in felony sex crimes cases, where the wronged defendant is likely to suffer lengthy incarceration as well as lifetime sex offender registry. The value of skillful legal representation during the appeals process is hard to underestimate, and in this case the appellate panel was persuaded to correct an error that the trial judge failed to recognize.

The basic legal issues are the same for clients wrongly convicted of DUI, drug crimes, theft crimes, assault or domestic violence. An experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer can spot shortcomings, gaps and inconsistencies in the prosecution's case and make every effort to bring those issues to the attention of juries, trial judges and appellate justices.