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Judges order new rape trial based on inadmissible evidence

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Because a detective’s testimony that a man on trial for committing rape was also a suspect in another case likely had a prejudicial impact on the jury finding the man guilty, the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial.

Ronald Dewayne Thompson was charged with Class A felony rape and Class B felony criminal deviate conduct, with prosecutors alleging he raped T.H. after offering to give her a ride. Thompson does not deny having sex with T.H., but claimed it was consensual.

During his trial, a Merrillville police detective testified that he was able to link Thompson to the rape of T.H. because Thompson was also a suspect in another sexual assault case that involved a similar location, vehicle and description of the suspect.

Thompson was convicted and sentenced to an aggregate 60-year sentence. In Ronald DeWayne Thompson v. State of Indiana, 45A03-1401-CR-8, he claimed the admission of the detective’s testimony violated Evidence Rule 404(b), because it did not fall under the identity or intent exceptions cited by the state.

The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the convictions, noting that identity was not an issue because Thompson admitted to having sexual intercourse with T.H., so evidence of prior bad acts was not admissible to show modus operandi. The judges also found that the evidence is not admissible to show intent, because Thomson’s consent is not in question, just the victim’s, so contrary intent is not applicable.

“Here, the jury heard evidence suggesting that Thompson had sexually assaulted another woman. Thompson asserted that he had consensual sexual intercourse with T.H., while T.H. asserted that she had not consented. Therefore, the determination of Thompson’s guilt hinged solely on the credibility of T.H. In light of these circumstances, we find it likely that Detective Smith’s testimony had a prejudicial impact on the jury and contributed to the guilty verdict,” Judge John Baker wrote.
 

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