Appeals court docket guidelines rape sufferer’s testimony adequate to assist her attacker’s conviction
In a key decision, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals rejected a child rapist’s argument that his victim’s testimony alone was not enough evidence for a jury to convict.
The court upheld the convictions of Gustavo Gonzalez Santos (now 53), whom a 2016 jury found guilty of rape and indecent assault of a 13-year-old girl in Lawrence.
“This decision not only confirms the convictions of the defendant, but also strongly confirms that the testimony of a victim of sexual assault can be sufficient evidence of the facts alleged in the trial,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said in a statement. “Additional confirmatory evidence or expert opinion is not required to support the victim’s testimony … a rape victim is entitled to the same credibility consideration as other crime victims.”
In November 2019, Gonzalez Santos was sentenced to 11 to 12 years in state prison, followed by three years probation.
On appeal, the defendant asserted that the public prosecutor had not produced any witnesses; physical, forensic, or medical evidence; or expert opinion to confirm the victim’s testimony, and their testimony alone was insufficient to support a conviction.
In its ruling, the court wrote: “Surprisingly, the Commonwealth does not cite a case, nor have we found one that simply states what we are now holding: the affidavit of the victim of sexual assault, including rape, is evidence of the facts . ” asserts. The notion that has long infected our legal system that the testimony of the victim in cases of sexual assault and rape is less credible than the testimony of victims in cases of other types of crime – an idea that reflected nothing other than sexism and the reluctance of ours Courts to treat sex crimes as the gravest matter they are – has been denied by both law and common law. “
Stacy Malone, executive director of the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, said the court’s decision was “very significant” as the judicial system has historically treated rape and sexual assault victims differently from other crime victims.
“This decision levels the playing field,” said Malone. “Victims of rape and sexual assault face this incredible hurdle of not being believed … This decision says that the words of a rape victim – the experience of a rape victim – are enough.”
Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for victims’ advocacy group, Jane Doe, Inc., said. This ruling does not imply that survivors should be compelled to attend the trial or that a decision to bring charges should depend on the survivors’ ability or willingness to provide testimony when other evidence is sufficient.
“But for those survivors who choose to participate in the criminal trial,” Troop said, “this verdict is a welcome change.”