A teenage girl reported she had been sexually abused by a man. A medical exam confirmed she had suffered involuntary anal penetration on the date of her report. At trial, however, the girl testified that she was in a sexual relationship with a boyfriend at the time of the alleged abuse, another girl had advised her to blame the defendant in order to protect the boyfriend, and the defendant was innocent. Her father corroborated her testimony, explaining that she recanted her accusations when he told her “where the defendant was being held.” Noting “contradictions” in the girl’s and father’s testimony (e.g., the girl did not know the full name or the address of the boyfriend or the other girl), the trial court gave “no weight” to the recantation, indicating that it was the product of “manipulation.” Instead, based on the medical evidence and the testimony of witnesses who responded to the girl’s initial report, the trial court convicted the defendant. The court of appeals affirmed. On a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court, the defendant argued that (1) the trial court failed to articulate the grounds for finding each element of the offense, and (2) the conviction was incongruous because there was no evidence identifying him as the perpetrator other than the girl’s own now-recanted statements. The Supreme Court vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial, ruling that the trial court had made certain findings about the alleged crime without citing a basis in the record. Notably, after a lengthy discussion of the importance of protecting victims from “secondary victimization” in the legal process, the Court authorized the trial court to read the girl’s testimony from the first trial into the record of the new trial, in lieu of requiring her to submit to live re-examination.
Sentencia nº 542 de Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Número de Expediente: C14-496)