When defendants are charged with crimes, the prosecution must try to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to do this, they will try to introduce any evidence that they think will support their arguments. However, a recent case right here in Morristown illustrates that there are limits as to what can be used as evidence at a criminal trial and what cannot.
The case involves allegations of sex crimes against a former Boy Scout leader. The three alleged victims have claimed that the abuse occurred over a period of years during the 1990s. The Morris County Assistant Prosecutor wanted to introduce testimony that the defendant gave the alleged victims alcohol and pornography and engaged them in conversations about sex, arguing that this was part of a campaign to “groom” them for abuse.
She also sought to introduce evidence of other inappropriate actions that allegedly took place but which would have occurred too long ago to be covered under New Jersey’s statute of limitations. The defendant’s attorney objected to this, comparing it to fuel for the fire that would prejudice the jury. The judge did rule that the testimony concerning the purported “grooming” scheme could be heard by the jury, but agreed with the defense that other evidence that wasn’t directly associated with the charges at hand would be prejudicial.
This is an interesting point about how the statute of limitations can affect a case. Even if a defendant is charged with a crime like sexual assault which is never barred, the statute may prevent prosecutors from digging up older allegations associated with purported crimes for which the statute would have tolled. That plays a role in keeping prosecutors from digging through one’s entire life history for any and every marginal detail that they think can be used against the defendant.
It’s a fairly technical point of law, but technicalities like this can make a difference when it comes to trial. A criminal defense professional will understand when and how to leverage the statute of limitations and other evidentiary rules on behalf of a defendant.