One of the common refrains made about sexual assault cases is that the only witnesses are the perpetrator and victim. In some cases, this certainly is the case. However, in a good number of sexual assault cases, there are victims of different types that do play a role in the investigation of the crime. As part of the investigatory process, statements must be taken from these victims.
Eyewitnesses Before Sexual Assault Incident
One key set of eyewitnesses of interest in a sexual assault case are those people who may have seen the victim, the perpetrator, or both parties directly prior to the incident. Information gleaned from these witnesses can include a description of how the victim or perpetrator were behaving immediately before the assault. If these victim and perp were together before the incident, vital information might be obtained from eyewitnesses about how these individuals were behaving before the assault was said to have occurred.
Eyewitnesses During Sexual Assault Incident
Although not a common occurrence, there are cases of sexual assault in which someone witnesses at least some of the incident. More common examples of when there might exist an eyewitness to some of all of an assault include a situation involving a party or an incident of sexual assault that occurred on a college or university campus.
In some instances, statements and testimony is elicited from a witness to the actual sexual assault is possible because the eyewitness is also in the position of being charged as a perpetrator. Thus, the prosecutor makes some type of deal with this individual to obtain testimony in exchange for some leniency in the case. This leniency can come in the form of a lesser crime being charged of a less significant sentence being imposed.
Eyewitnesses After Sexual Assault Incident
In some cases of sexual assault, eyewitnesses encounter the victim relatively soon after the incident. These eyewitnesses can prove helpful in investigating and prosecuting a sexual assault case. They can speak to everything from the appearance of the victim to the individual’s state of mind.
There are also instances in which eyewitnesses encounter the individual who is identified as the perpetrator of a sexual assault not long after the incident occurred. As is the case with eyewitnesses who have seen the victim, these individuals who lay eyes on the alleged perpetrator following an incident can also provide valuable information. This may include information on things from the appearance of the perpetrator to the perp’s demeanor in the aftermath of the assault.
Eyewitnesses to Statements Made by Perpetrator
Key eyewitnesses to statements made by an alleged perpetrator following a sexual attack can prove to be invaluable. Whilst it’s not commonplace for a perpetrator to make a specific declaration confessing to a sexual assault, he may make statements which place him at the scene of the crime or support other aspects of a case being pursued against him.
The rule against hearsay statements is not likely applicable to such statements. The reason being is that the defendant will be present in court and has the ability to take the state to contradict a witness statement if he so desires. In addition, this type of statement made by an alleged perpetrator of a sexual assault oftentimes is classified as an exception to the hearsay rule anyway. For example, such a statement overheard by an eyewitness might be what is considered as a statement against the perpetrator’s interests, which is an exception to the hearsay rule. In addition, such a statement might be classified as an excited declaration, another exception to the hearsay rule.
Eyewitnesses to State of Victim Before and After the Incident
There may also be eyewitnesses to the state of the victim before and after the incident. For example, there may be individuals that saw the victim after the alleged assault and noted that she had torn clothing or even bruises, all of which is evidence that she was the victim of an assault.
Reliability of Eyewitness Evidence
Eyewitness counts of a crime or related situation are imperfect. Thus, as a general, eyewitness accounts of a situation are not considered to be the most reliable form of evidence in the prosecution of a criminal defendant, including a person who is alleged to be the perpetrator of a sexual offense or assault. As a consequence, eyewitness testimony is apt to be one type of evidence presented in the criminal prosecution of a sexual assault case.
In the final analysis, eyewitness testimony can prove to be very helpful in the prosecution of a sexual offense. A reliable eyewitness can provide evidence that can be useful in buttressing the prosecutor’s case, particularly when other types of evidence exist to support the contention that someone has been sexually assaulted and the person being prosecuted is the individual that perpetrated the crime.