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Judges uphold college student's rape conviction

June 20, 2012

The man charged with raping a fellow Vincennes University student following a night of drinking had his conviction affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Jason Michael Palilonis challenged his Class B felony conviction of raping B.S., claiming the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to correct error based on alleged juror misconduct; when it allowed the jury to be informed that B.S. was unavailable because she was deceased; in admitting statements made by B.S. during the course of her sexual-assault examination; when it admitted the vouching statements made by the nurse who performed B.S.’s sexual-assault examination; and when it admitted the statements Palilonis made during his interview with law enforcement after the incident. He also claimed there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the rape conviction.  

Palilonis and B.S. met at a party and had sex. The next night, they were drinking at the same party. B.S. eventually went to a friend’s apartment and passed out on the couch. Palilonis showed up and attempted to have sex with her. A witness saw Palilonis having sex with B.S. Palilonis was beat up by some of B.S.’s friends, and B.S. woke up and went to the hospital for an examination.

About a year after the incident, B.S. committed suicide.

Several days after the jury convicted Palilonis, one juror claimed that the jury learned through the foreperson that the presiding judge told high school students visiting his courtroom that he thought Palilonis was guilty. A special judge heard the misconduct allegations but denied Palilonis’ motion to set aside the verdict.

The Court of Appeals ruled against Palilonis on all of his arguments except for his challenge to allowing vouching statements made by the nurse who examined B.S. to be admitted. The nurse testified that B.S.’s case was noteworthy to her because B.S.’s statement that she was raped was believable, but this is impermissible vouching testimony, noted Judge Nancy Vaidik in Jason Michael Palilonis v. State of Indiana, 42A05-1104-CR-197. It did not rise to the level of fundamental error, however.

 

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