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Accused Sex-Offender Gets New Trial After Court Error

Accused Sex-Offender Gets New Trial After Court Error

David Bueso was charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(1)); second-degree sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b); and third-degree endangering the welfare of a minor (N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a.1) for crimes committed against M.C. when she was approximately four or five years old. Bueso lived with his girlfriend, Lucero, and her mother, Amparo, who babysat M.C. in their residence and the alleged touching occurred in the residence. M.C. told her mother that Busero touched her vagina with his hand and mouth and M.C.’s mother contacted the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. M.C. testified that the acts took place in the defendant’s bedroom when Lucero was out of the residence. Lucero and Amparo indicated that M.C. was never alone with the defendant and they had never seen any inappropriate behavior by Bueso toward M.C. At trial, in State v. Bueso, Bueso offered exculpatory evidence and the prosecution had no concrete medical evidence of sexual acts against M.C. Additionally, M.C. offered conflicting statements as to the number of times and the dates upon which the alleged acts occurred and the jury found the defendant guilty as to alleged acts on one occasion but innocent of alleged acts on another occasion and the court sentenced Bueso to a 15-year prison term subject to the No Early Release Act (N.E.R.A) (N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2). Bueso appealed and the NJ Appellate division held that the plain error standard of State v. Bunch, 180 N.J. 534, 541 (2004) applied and that the court’s error in failing to inquire sufficiently into the competence of M.C. to testify must be disregarded “unless it is of such a nature as to have been clearly capable of producing an unjust result.” R. 2:10-2. Pursuant to State v. G.C., 188 N.J. 118, 131 (2006), a witness must understand the nature of an oath and have sufficient capacity to recollect and communicate with respect the matters about which they are providing testimony. State v. Zamorsky, 159 N.J. super 273, 280 (App. Div. 1978) established the elements a trial judge should use to determine competency of children as witnesses as “exploring the child’s conceptual awareness of truth and falsehood” and then determining “whether the child understands the duty to tell the truth.” The Appellate Division held that the trial in the Superior Court of New Jersey- Law Division, Union County’s failure to make sufficient inquiry into M.C. competency was plain error and required a new trial. If you have been charged with a sex crime you face severe consequences including prison, societal scorn and inclusion on the sex offender registry and possible involuntary civil commitment. It is critical you obtain experienced defense counsel to immediately begin to review the prosecution’s, evidence, speak with witnesses, explore alibis you may have and build a defense. For more information about sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a minor and other sex crimes visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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