Friday, March 09, 2012

Sexual Abuse Convictions Affirmed Over Due Process, Venue Challenges

US v. Holmes: Holmes was accused of sexually abusing his 9-year old step daughter while the family lived in Japan, where Holmes, who was in the Air Force, was stationed, in 1999 and 2002. In 2007, when Holmes returned to Virginia from a deployment in Qatar, he was interviewed by a pair of Air Force investigators about the allegations. Eventually, Holmes admitted the abuse, in some detail.

He was charged in EDVA with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor (a first indictment was dismissed without prejudice and a second indictment sought after Holmes moved to Ilinois and was arrested in North Carolina). That indictment was dismissed based on lack of venue, because of his arrest in North Carolina. Within hours of his release following the dismissal, Holmes was arrested on a fresh criminal complaint (based on the same conduct) and eventually indicted for the third time. Holmes was convicted after a jury trial, at which the district court precluded his presentation of expert testimony about false confessions, and sentenced to 262 months in prison.

On appeal, Holmes raised several arguments attacking his convictions, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected. First, the court concluded that Holmes's statements to Air Force investigators should have been suppressed because they were given under circumstances that broke his will and rendered the statements involuntary. Holmes was advised of and waived his Miranda rights, there was no indication that the long journey from Qatar (and lack of time to acclimate to being home) led to him giving the statements, and there was no evidence of improper conduct on the investigators' part. Second, the court concluded that venue was proper in EDVA because the relevant "offense" in the analysis was the same for each of the three indictments and the first arrest in Virginia was proper (it's unclear from the record why the first indictment was dismissed). Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding Holmes's expert witness because the disclosure of that witness was untimely.

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