This past July, Chester County Common Pleas Court Judge Howard F. Riley Jr. granted a defense motion for a mistrial with prejudice for three young men facing charges of rape, sexual assault and indecent assault against a female student because the prosecution withheld evidence from the defendants. Because the mistrial ruling was with prejudice, it prevented the prosecution from pursuing another trial against the defendants.
The alleged victim was with the three men in a dorm room at Lincoln College late one night, and she claimed she had blacked out due to her voluntarily drinking too much. According to her, after learning from friends the next morning that she had engaged in group sex with the three men, she contacted campus police, who filed charges. Certain evidence used by the prosecutor was deemed to be ‘Brady Material’ (see Brady vs. Maryland) because the prosecutor failed to provide the defense with a recorded witness interview and an arrest record of the alleged victim.
The defendants pointed out that this evidence contradicted the alleged victim’s story and questioned her credibility as a witness. In the recorded interview, a friend of the alleged victim indicated that she had been with the woman the night of the incident and that the alleged victim had not been drinking. A previous shoplifting arrest also called into question the credibility of the alleged victim.
However, the judge recently reversed his own ruling that the mistrial was with prejudice, finding that although the prosecutor was “careless and negligent” in failing to disclose the evidence, and that she did not deliberately withhold the material evidence in an attempt to prevent a fair trial for the defendants or to precipitate a mistrial.
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