On your favorite TV courtroom drama show, the defense may often focus its arguments around the idea that the accused must be found “not guilty” because the evidence points to a specific other person as the real guilty party. In real life, your best defense in a criminal trial doesn’t always look like that, but sometimes that is exactly how to advance your strongest defense.
When that’s the case, you need to be sure you have skilled Pinellas County criminal defense lawyer on your side, because there is a specific way to get that evidence before the jury. Do it right and you may have very strong chance of an acquittal; do it wrong and the jury may not ever get to hear that powerful evidence at all.
R.N. was a man in need of that kind of defense in his case. R.N. was on trial for a home burglary and for battering the woman inside the home. The attacker broke into a Dunedin home in the middle of the night and jumped on the resident as she lay in bed. The woman eventually fought off her attacker.
R.N. seemed to have some strong evidence in his favor. The victim described her attacker as a slender white man with hazel eyes who did not give off any noticeable odors. R.N. was a dark-skinned Hispanic man with brown eyes, who was 5’9” tall and weighed 225 pounds, and who, when found by the police shortly after the attack, had breath that smelled noticeably of alcohol.
The defense’s proof went further, though, as they had a possible culprit. A man named N.N. committed a very similar attack in nearby Palm Harbor around the same time as this victim’s attack. In both cases, the residents were middle-aged women living alone. In both cases, the attacker entered in the middle of the night. Both attackers wore dark clothes and a dark mask. Both attacks involved the attacker pouncing on the victim and assaulting her in her bed.
N.N. confessed to the Palm Harbor attack. As for appearance, N.N. was a white man with hazel eyes who the victim described as about 5’9” and 160 pounds.
Evidence rule didn’t require that both crimes be ‘identical’
R.N.’s argument was that his evidence regarding the Palm Harbor attack was admissible in his trial as something Florida law calls “reverse Williams rule evidence.” That name comes from a 1959 Supreme Court case and it means “similar fact evidence offered by a defendant to show that someone else committed the crime for which the defendant is being tried.”
R.N. filed the proper pretrial motion to get the evidence of the other attack admitted in his trial under the reverse Williams rule. (To get that kind of evidence in front of your jury, you must clear some very strict standards with regard to similarity between the crime in your case and the crime(s) that occurred in the proof you want to present.)
According to the appeals court, the accused should have been allowed to use that evidence in his defense. While the crime in the proposed evidence must be very, very similar, it doesn’t have to be identical in every way to the crime at issue in the defendant’s trial. The two just need to have similarities so striking that they outweigh any differences.
The Dunedin attack and the Palm Harbor attack had that degree of similarity, so R.N. was entitled to use it in his defense.
Whether your criminal defense does or does not require using the “reverse Williams rule,” it almost will require someone who not only knows the facts of your case but has an in-depth knowledge of the law and court procedures. To be sure you have that kind of counsel aiding you, get in touch with the skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. Our team offers our clients knowledgeable, skillful and aggressive defense representation. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.