The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has awarded child rape suspect Emoe Zakiaya Mosi Bakari a third trial, ruling that his conviction of attempted rape of a child must be overturned because of various prejudicial errors during Bakari’s second trial.
Bakari was indicted by a Davidson County grand jury in 2008 and was accused of raping an ex-girlfriend’s daughter and nephew in 2002 and 2003 while he lived with the family. Bakari allegedly told police the allegations were not true and stemmed from his ex-girlfriend’s “jealousy.”
Bakari was first tried in August 2009, but the jury could not reach a verdict and the court declared a mistrial. Bakari was tried again in December 2009, convicted of attempted rape of a child and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
On appeal, Bakari argued that Davidson County Criminal Judge J. Randall Wyatt Jr. erred by (1) allowing a State witness to testify about “delayed disclosure” in child sexual abuse cases; (2) allowing a police detective to give testimony suggesting the appellant was uncooperative during the investigation; (3) allowing the State to introduce a photograph of the victims into evidence; and (4) allowing the prosecutor during rebuttal closing argument to give personal examples in an attempt to vouch for the victims’ credibility.
For example, prosecutor Kristen Menke was allowed “to give personal examples in an attempt to vouch for the victims’ credibility,” stating in part that the children should not be expected to perfectly recall “something that happened half of their lifetime ago,” when she couldn’t remember every sexual encounter she’d had with her own husband in the past year.
The Court ultimately agreed with the defense, ruling that the trial court erred by allowing a witness to testify about “delayed disclosure,” by allowing a police detective to give testimony suggesting the appellant was uncooperative during the investigation, and by allowing the prosecutor to give personal examples in an attempt to vouch for the victims’ credibility. The Court concluded that the cumulative effect of the errors warrants reversal of the appellant’s conviction and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial.
The full opinion can be found here.
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