Trying a sexual assault of a child case is not as simple as putting the child victim on the stand and winning a guilty verdict. Even if the child is the State’s only witness, she is not alone when she testifies. Certain forces surround her and attach themselves to her like a poltergeist invading a vulnerable host. These forces, such as the defendant’s influence over her, family pressures, and psychological conflicts within the child, are invisible to the untrained eye but still manipulate the child victim.
The more forces that take hold of the victim and the longer they’re present, the more inescapable their grasp. The clutches of sexual abuse may render a victim, the only eyewitness to the crime, incapable of testifying against her perpetrator. If prosecutors are oblivious to these outside influences, the case will be pulled in the defendant’s favor, as he is usually the one behind them.
In the State of Texas v. Roy Wayne Jackson Jr., our child victim, Brandi Renner,1 was the product of sexual abuse. At age 22, her biological father, Lewis Zeine, was convicted of sexually abusing and impregnating Brandi’s mother, Allison Renner. Allison was just 12 years old when she gave birth to Brandi, and Allison never wanted Zeine prosecuted. In Allison’s flawed thinking, Zeine’s love for her was real and their relationship consensual. Nonetheless, Zeine was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and 12-year-old Allison was left to raise Brandi by herself.
Brandi was born into a world where having sexual relations with older men was acceptable and normal. When she was three months old, Allison had sex with 18-year-old Roy Wayne Jackson, and he impregnated Allison, who was still only 12, and they had a son.
Allison’s parents reported Jackson’s sexual abuse, and in 1997 the Montgomery County DA’s Office filed charges against him for aggravated sexual assault of a child. However, neither Allison nor Jackson wanted him to go to jail as Lewis Zeine had, so the two fled to Missouri. Jackson extorted Allison’s parents, telling them that he would return Allison only if they signed Affidavits of Non Prosecution stating they approved of Allison and Jackson’s relationship. Jackson’s plan worked. The affidavits were scripted, the case was dismissed, and Allison and Jackson remained together for the next 16 years.
During those years, Allison gave birth to two more sons, but as Allison got older and focused on work, Jackson focused on Brandi.
Jackson first sexually abused Brandi when she was just 8 years old, and there was nothing gradual about it: He went straight to fully penetrating Brandi’s sexual organ. In addition to the bleeding, tears, and pain, Jackson threatened that if Brandi told anyone, he would kill her mother and brothers. Brandi believed Jackson because she had witnessed him physically assault her family.
Despite this fear and intimidation, Brandi gathered enough strength to tell her mother what Jackson did, but Allison failed to protect her daughter. She never called the police or took Brandi for a medical exam. Her inaction not only caused Brandi to tell her mother she lied about the allegations, but it also empowered Jackson. His sexual abuse intensified. About once a week he raped her in various homes and motels all over Montgomery, Harris, and Liberty Counties. Anytime Brandi refused him, he punched her in the face and forced her into submission.
When she was 11, Brandi told Jackson’s mother, Susan Pearson, that Jackson sexually abused her. But Pearson cared more for her own son than a step-granddaughter and did nothing about the outcry. Once again, a trusted adult failed to stop Jackson.
The sexual abuse continued. But Jackson did not want to get Brandi pregnant and catch another criminal charge like he did with Allison, so he took Brandi to the doctor to start her on birth control pills. However, Brandi failed to take the pills as directed, and Jackson impregnated her when she was 13. After finding out about the pregnancy, Jackson told Brandi she was too young to have his baby so he and Allison made a plan to dispose of the evidence. Two days after Brandi’s 14th birthday Jackson and Allison took her to an abortion clinic. Brandi thought it was just a regular checkup until Allison and the doctor had her sign consent forms to abort the child.
After the abortion Jackson wanted better protection against pregnancy, so he took Brandi back to the doctor for a birth control patch. Despite this precaution, Jackson impregnated Brandi a second time when she was 15 and while the family was living in Liberty County. This time there would be no abortion. Brandi told her cousin about Jackson’s abuse, and her cousin called the police.
Finally, after seven years of abuse, Brandi’s words were being taken seriously. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services immediately placed Brandi in a foster family that was also willing to take Kenneth, her son, once he was born, ensuring both Brandi’s and Kenneth’s protection and allowing the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to conduct its investigation with a cooperative complainant. Without a cooperative complainant, it’s difficult to corroborate her allegations.
Corroboration = Credibility
The key to a successful sexual assault investigation is corroboration. How often have we prosecutors heard a jury come back after a not-guilty verdict and say, “I believed the child’s testimony, but there just wasn’t enough evidence”? Jurors want to believe what a child says, but the forces delaying a child’s outcry also commonly result in the loss of the “CSI”-type evidence, which jurors assume exists in every case. Corroboration is that “something more” that jurors crave. Quite simply, corroboration equals credibility.
Sexual assault investigations begin with words—a child’s words. And a prosecutor wants to get past the mutinous murmur of the venire asking the inevitable question, “Wait, you want me to convict someone of this serious crime based on the word of a child?” To do so, detectives must find evidence that independently verifies these baseline allegations. Maybe it’s as simple as a child remembering playing UNO and eating pizza rolls the night Grandpa touched her, and Grandma remembers that she baked pizza rolls while the victim played cards with Grandpa. Or maybe it’s the victim’s memory that “he picked me up early from school that day when I was in Ms. Smith’s class,” and school records confirm an early release from Ms. Smith’s class on the day in question. These seemingly insignificant bits of evidence are critical to the investigation and to corroborating the victim’s story.
In Montgomery County, a Corroboration Challenge checklist is placed in every forensic interview room challenging detectives to find at least 10 ways to independently corroborate a child’s statement. (Find a PDF of this checklist below.) The goal is when a child walks into a courtroom to testify, she is not alone but rather surrounded by evidence validating her credibility. And credibility means that this child witness is worthy of belief beyond a reasonable doubt.
Corroborating Brandi’s outcry
To establish a baseline of Brandi’s allegations, lead detective Trey Gordy reviewed the girl’s forensic interview, the Medical Forensic Assessment (SANE) report, and the patrol deputy’s report. From there he drove Brandi and her foster mother around the county so she could show him the homes and motels where Jackson had abused her. With only Brandi’s words Gordy created a timeline of the sexual assaults.
Next, he collected evidence that independently verified Brandi’s allegations. Gordy ran Jackson’s criminal history from the time-frame of his abuse. In addition to his prior aggravated sexual assault charge, Jackson had been arrested for driving while license suspended, driving while intoxicated, evading, and possession of a controlled substance. Gordy pulled Jackson’s old arrest records for his addresses, and all of them matched both where and when Brandi said he abused her.
Gordy also subpoenaed records from Brandi’s pediatrician, ob-gyn, school, and abortion clinic. These records independently verified where and when Brandi said Jackson abused her and confirmed both pregnancies. Also, the pediatric records verified Brandi’s prescription for birth control pills and patch and that Jackson accompanied her to both visits. Gordy also collected receipts from a Motel 6 and Executive Inn showing Jackson stayed at the motels the same dates Brandi alleged he sexually abused her.
Most importantly, Gordy collected buccal swabs from Brandi and her newborn son, Kenneth, to establish paternity through DNA. Gordy could not obtain Jackson’s swabs because he was on the run, but all was not lost. Instead, the detective collected buccal swabs from Jackson’s three sons to see if Kenneth shared the same Y-STR paternal lineage as Jackson. DNA analyst Sarah Shields with Bode Technologies confirmed that Kenneth shared Jackson’s paternal lineage.
Next, Gordy searched for Jackson by contacting his friends and found him living in San Jacinto County under an alias. Gordy obtained a search warrant and collected Jackson’s buccal swabs, and Shields conducted a confirmatory STR DNA paternity test establishing Jackson as Kenneth’s biological father through a probability of paternity of 99.999998 percent.
Seven years of abuse
Because Jackson’s abuse lasted 30 or more days and Brandi was under 14 during most of that time, he was charged with Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child. This charge had the most bite because the punishment range for this first-degree felony is 25 years to life without parole.2 However, that statute did not exist until 2007, so we added a second count of aggravated sexual assault of a child for the sexual abuse Brandi suffered while she was under age 14 and prior to 2007. We also added a third count of a sexual assault of a child from an incident of abuse when Brandi was 15.
There were many instances of abuse both inside and outside Montgomery County and inside and outside the indictment. Before moving forward with a trial strategy, we needed to evaluate which extraneous offenses would be admissible under Article 38.37 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
Section 1 of Article 38.37 permits extraneous evidence of the defendant assaulting the same victim alleged in the indictment. So long as the prosecutor gives 30 days’ written notice, it is mandatory that the judge admit this evidence. Even without a hearing this evidence “shall be admitted for its bearing on relevant matters, including: (1) the state of mind of the defendant and the child and (2) the previous and subsequent relationship between the defendant and the child.”3 “By enacting Art. 38.37, the legislature in effect determined that, in certain sexual abuse cases, evidence of ‘other crimes, wrongs, or acts’ committed by the accused against the child victim are [sic] relevant and admissible.”4
This was important for our case because Jackson impregnated Brandi in another county, meaning the DNA evidence (proof of his paternity of baby Kenneth and therefore proof that he had raped Brandi) was not part of our indictment. However, this extraneous evidence was critical for the jury’s assessment of Brandi’s credibility.
And what about Allison’s case and the abuse she suffered at the hands of Jackson? Was it proper for the jury to hear that evidence?
Section 2 of Article 38.37 deals with extraneous evidence of the defendant assaulting another victim not alleged in the indictment.5 Admitting evidence under this section, however, is not mandatory. It is within the judge’s discretion whether he allows this evidence for its bearing on relevant matters, including the defendant’s character and if the defendant acted in conformity with that character. Before the evidence can be introduced, the judge must conduct a hearing outside the jury’s presence to determine if the evidence is sufficient to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense occurred, as well as whether the probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.6
In preparing for trial we knew all seven years of Brandi’s abuse was admissible, but we could not confidently rely on Allison’s extraneous evidence coming out in our case in chief.
Preparing child victims
Preparing the victim happens over the course of many meetings. It is not polite or productive to ask someone to relive the worst thing that’s ever happened to her immediately after introducing yourself. When we first meet with a victim, the goal is to establish a rapport. Gaining her trust is imperative for the child’s ability to open up to the prosecutor and, ultimately, to a jury. These first meetings are fairly short, spending just enough time to find out what the child likes and how she is doing.
It is also important to keep the child informed. I’ve heard that when children start a new school one of their biggest worries is, “Where are the bathrooms?” The unknown is one of the scariest aspects for a child. Keeping this in mind, we let the child know that in the first couple of meetings, we are not going to talk about “all that yucky stuff” yet, that we would save that for another time. After hearing this, the child feels relieved, her demeanor changes, and she appreciates being treated like an adult.
The timing to discuss the minute details of the abuse can be just as important as building rapport and earning a child’s trust. Too many times, a victim gets ready for trial too soon, only to have the trial date moved. Having the child relive the abuse can cause her emotional fatigue and stress. For this reason, we wait to schedule The Meeting (the one where we discuss the details of the abuse) until after docket call.
When meeting with the child, we always use the buddy system. A prosecutor should never meet with the child alone. When a victim meeting is scheduled, be sure to grab a victim assistance coordinator, an investigator, or another prosecutor to join you. This gives the child practice talking in front of multiple people. Also, the “buddy,” who is less familiar with the case, may interject clarifying questions that the lead prosecutor might have assumed to be clear. Most importantly, those who work with children know that a child may not initially disclose all of the abuse in the forensic interview. It is common for additional instances or details to be disclosed during the meeting for whatever reason (whether the child was afraid of getting in trouble, too embarrassed to reveal all the secrets, or too exhausted to discuss the particulars anymore).
“The meeting” with Brandi
It was the Friday afternoon before trial, and even though we had previously met with Brandi, we never had her detail Jackson’s abuse. However, Brandi was 17 now, and we were only three days away from trial. Trial chief Nancy Hebert was prosecutor Vincenzo Santini’s “buddy” for the meeting, and we all felt the weight of it. We knew we were in for a long night because Jackson’s abuse started so long ago and there was so much of it. Our goal was to make sure we pinned down at least one event (and its details) for each count in the indictment, without causing Brandi too much fatigue.
Brandi was ready. Her demeanor could be summed up in one word: resolved. Brandi had resolved to tell us everything—and for the next five hours that’s exactly what she did. When trying to establish dates for our Continuous charge, Brandi remembered another instance of abuse that we didn’t know about previously (meaning, she disclosed it for the first time in our meeting). Everything went as well as it could, and after those five hours we were all emotionally exhausted—but also ready for trial. Our hope was now that Brandi would remain resolved despite the many forces surrounding her.
First trial strategy revolves around Brandi’s testimony
Trial was set on December 9, 2013. We understood many of the forces around Brandi, and we knew that in these types of cases nothing ever goes as planned. We felt the best trial strategy revolved around Brandi’s live testimony; the girl had been removed from her family’s influence and placed in foster care. Also, Brandi cooperated with both the sheriff’s and our office’s investigations, she was open with us in our meetings, and her version of events was consistent throughout. Plus, we had Gordy’s strong corroborative evidence, including the DNA paternity results for Brandi’s young son. When discussing the forces that could potentially impact the case, we kept reassuring ourselves, “We have a baby; we have a baby.” Yet during the first trial, the fact that we had a baby almost destroyed our case.
Trial was going as planned. Gordy testified about the corroborative evidence and Shields testified to the paternity results. The only thing left was for Brandi to give her account of Jackson’s abuse, as she had done consistently to that point. But this time was different. She wasn’t as forthcoming and struggled to answer even the simplest questions. We were just about to get into details of Jackson’s abuse when Brandi asked to take a break.
During the break we went to check on Brandi, and that’s when she dropped a bombshell. Brandi not only recanted her prior outcries but also stated that her 16-year-old half-brother (Jackson’s oldest son) was Kenneth’s father.
The important thing to do at that moment was to keep calm and not get angry at Brandi—after all, she was still a victim of nearly a decade of sexual abuse. She was obviously under some kind of immense pressure. But before identifying the source of this pressure and her recantation, court and counsel needed an update.
We gave defense counsel Brady notice on the record and discussed how trial would proceed. We informed court and counsel that we were overnighting Jackson’s sons’ buccal swabs for DNA paternity analysis because they had not yet been excluded as Kenneth’s father. Results were expected the next day. Defense counsel moved for a continuance to conduct its own DNA analysis but would not be able to continue with trial for a few months because of other preferentially set cases. Then, on her own motion, the judge declared a mistrial, claiming manifest necessity for the defense’s ability to retest the possible exculpatory DNA results.
It took over a year of failed defense writs claiming we were barred by double jeopardy for us to have another shot at Jackson. This time we had the upper hand.
Before leaving the courtroom after the judge declared a mistrial, we had our investigator, Joey Ashton, order Jackson’s jail cell inspected, his jail mail copied, and his jail phone calls recorded. In that inspection, Ashton uncovered Jackson’s handwritten note ordering his son to refuse any DNA tests and for his son to keep telling Brandi to say Jackson never touched her. This confirmed our theory that Jackson had improperly influenced Brandi’s testimony.
The next day, Jackson’s sons’ paternity results came back. All three sons were excluded as Kenneth’s father.
Next, Ashton listened to jail calls Jackson had placed to his mother, Susan Pearson. He had used another inmate’s ID to place the calls, but Ashton tracked the calls using Pearson’s phone number. In conversations just prior to the first trial, Pearson promised Jackson a not-guilty verdict because she had affidavits already written up; the plan was to spring them on us at the very end of trial so we couldn’t defend against them.
After hearing this, Ashton met with Brandi’s foster parents to see if they found these affidavits or any other evidence of tampering. The foster parents did find a letter handwritten by Brandi in the girl’s closet that stated Jackson never touched Brandi and that Jackson’s son was Kenneth’s father—the same recantation that had come up at trial. The foster parents also discovered that Brandi’s brothers had snuck her at least three disposable cell phones without their knowledge. In subsequent jail calls, investigator Ashton heard Pearson say she was in contact with Brandi through cell phones.
After finding out that the DNA excluded his sons, Jackson called his mother and told her that their old defense was out the window. He said they needed to get new affidavits, just like in Allison’s case—affidavits stating that Brandi and Jackson had Allison’s permission to be a couple. Jackson went on to claim that their consensual sex didn’t happen in Montgomery County. Then there was a conversation about which county would be the smartest choice of venue.
There was even a call where Jackson dictated an affidavit to his mother for Brandi to sign. This affidavit scripted another defense where Brandi admitted to raping Jackson when he was passed out on pain pills and alcohol. Jackson even proposed that if all else failed, Brandi should “disappear” after turning 18.
Next, Ashton and I met with Brandi to confront her with this evidence. She admitted that her step-grandmother and her brothers made her lie. She stated she knew what it was like to grow up without a father, and she didn’t want that for her brothers. She also stated her intent to leave foster care when she turned 18.
Second trial strategy involves outcry witnesses
We knew going into the next trial that Brandi was too far under Jackson’s influence to rely on her testimony. Instead, our strategy focused on having the people to whom Brandi disclosed Jackson’s abuse testify on her behalf. These people are “outcry witnesses.”
Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.072 is a special exception to hearsay in child abuse cases. It allows for the first person, age 18 or older, to whom a child under 14 tells about abuse to testify about that abuse.7 The age of the child refers to the age at the time of the abuse, not the age of the child at trial.8
The outcry witness is not always the first adult the child tells; rather, it is the first person willing or able to testify about the requisite specificity of the abuse. A general allusion to sexual abuse is not enough.9 The law even allows multiple outcry witnesses to testify when the child discloses new instances of abuse over time.10 The determination of the proper outcry witness is established in a hearing conducted outside the jury’s presence during which the court must be satisfied that the statement is reliable and the defendant was given a written summary of the testimony at least 14 days prior to trial.11
Before starting the second trial, the judge held an outcry hearing and determined that only the abuse that occurred while Brandi was 13 or younger was admissible. This meant we could not go forward on Count Three because those acts occurred after Brandi turned 14.
During the hearing, Kari Prihoda from Children’s Safe Harbor testified about what Brandi disclosed to her during the forensic interview, and prosecutor-turned-outcry-witness Nancy Hebert testified about what Brandi disclosed during our five-hour pretrial meeting.12 Because the forensic interview occurred before our pretrial meeting, the judge ruled that Prihoda could testify to everything Brandi disclosed to her when she was under age 14. Hebert was allowed to testify to the new disclosure Brandi made during the pretrial meeting because Article 38.072 is act-specific, not person-specific.13 The judge made sure not to overlap incidents.
Because we wouldn’t have a live victim point out Jackson as the perpetrator in open court, we knew there would be an issue proving identity. To get around this, Hebert showed Brandi a photo of Jackson during the pretrial meeting, and Brandi confirmed it was the same person who sexually abused her. The judge admitted this testimony and the photograph as evidence under 38.072.
However, for 38.072 to work, Brandi had to be “available” to testify (so as to not violate Jackson’s Sixth Amendment right to confronta-tion).14 There were several discussions about how to establish Brandi’s availability without necessarily revealing that we were not going to call her as a witness. We decided to serve Brandi a subpoena and at the close of our case swear her in outside the jury’s presence and have her testify on the record that she was present and had been available to testify since the start of the trial.
However, prior to trial, Brandi turned 18 and moved away without telling us where she was living. She even left baby Kenneth with the foster family. We were really concerned how to move forward with outcry witness testimony if Brandi did not show up to trial and was “unavailable” to testify. As a back-up plan, we decided if Brandi was “unavailable,” we would prove to the court that the defendant’s influence and pressure caused Brandi’s unavailability through the doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing.
Forfeiting “availability” by wrongdoing
Even locked up, Jackson controlled Brandi. All the evidence uncovered by investigator Ashton proved Jackson and his family tampered with her, put words in her mouth, and caused a mistrial. Jackson wasted the time of the court, the 100 citizens who showed up for jury duty, and the 12 people who sat through three days of testimony, not to mention the cost for overnight testing of Jackson’s sons’ DNA. There was no way the law should allow Jackson to capitalize on this miscarriage of justice.
A defendant cannot capitalize from frightening a witness—let alone a victim—into disappearing before trial so that she becomes unavailable to testify. And Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.49 states just that.
The doctrine of forfeiture by wrongdoing states, “A party to a criminal case who wrongfully procures the unavailability of a witness or prospective witness: 1) may not benefit from the wrongdoing by depriving the trier of fact of relevant evidence and testimony; and 2) forfeits the party’s right to object to the admissibility of [the evidence or statements from the unavailable witness].”15
Not only are the unavailable witness’s statements admissible, but so is evidence of the defendant’s tampering.16 All that is required to admit this evidence is for a judge to make a finding by a preponderance of the evidence in a hearing outside the jury’s presence.17 The judge does not have to find the actor’s sole intent was to cause the witness’ unavailability, that the statements were reliable, or that a crime has been committed. However, if the actor was convicted of tampering under the Texas Penal Code, then forfeiture by wrongdoing is presumed.18 There is also no requirement for written notice because a witness cannot be unavailable until trial begins.
We were ready to use this doctrine in the strong likelihood that Brandi did not show up for trial.
The second trial
But Brandi did show up. We were able to track her whereabouts through Facebook and through her supervised visits with Kenneth. We kept Brandi with our victim assistance coordinator, Pam Traylor, just in case the defense wanted to call her.
The second trial started off similar to the first, except this time ADA Mary Nan Huffman was co-counsel—former trial partner (and chief), Nancy Hebert, was now an outcry witness. We presented Gordy’s corroborating evidence and Shields’ DNA conclusions. But we had to make up for the fact we weren’t calling the victim. We did so by putting on more witnesses: Forensic nurse Ashley Huynh, forensic interviewer Kari Prihoda, and outcry witness Nancy Hebert all spoke on Brandi’s behalf. To combat the defense’s theory that Brandi was a liar who recanted her story, we called investigator Ashton to testify about the tampering evidence.
We also called Dr. Lawrence Thompson from the Harris County Children’s Assessment Center to explain why a victim would make herself unavailable and not want to testify in trial. He talked about factors of influence, including the family pressuring the victim. He also helped jurors understand the process of disclosure, recantation, and reaffirmation. Dr. Thompson never reviewed any of the evidence but shared his knowledge of child sexual abuse from all his years of experience. Because we called him as our last witness, we were able to give him hypotheticals similar to our case, and the jury could follow along from the testimony that had already been presented.
We also tried to enter the extraneous evidence from Allison’s case in our case in chief under §2 of Article 38.37. Before we rested our case, we asked for a hearing outside the jury’s presence. In the hearing we didn’t call Allison as a witness but rather proved Jackson’s sexual abuse, which resulted in two pregnancies, with self-authenticating records of vital statistics (birth certificates), backed up by Shields’ DNA results. The judge ultimately declined to admit the evidence of Allison’s abuse during our case in chief. However, when Allison took the stand in the defense’s case and testified that she was never concerned about Jackson sexually abusing her children, we approached the bench again, and the judge changed her ruling. The evidence of Jackson’s 1997 charge was admitted in front of the jury.19 (See the article on page 33 for another case, this one in Smith County, where prosecutors utilized the same statute.)
Once the evidence was presented and testimony was finished, the jury had everything they needed to render the right verdict. Yet when those 12 jurors stood up and turned to walk into the deliberation room, we couldn’t help but second-guess our decision not to put Brandi on the stand. Did they need to hear from her to find Jackson guilty? Were they going to hold our trial decision against us? We had to wait and see.
It took the jury only about two hours to find Jackson guilty. During punishment we put on one of Jackson’s cellmates to testify that Jackson had put out a hit to kill us. The cellmate testified that Jackson told him that either Jackson or someone else would sit across from the DA’s office and snipe us as we left work. He also stated that Jackson wanted to feed our dead carcasses to his girlfriend’s pet pig, which, we found out during cross-examination of his girlfriend, was named Bacon. Even with such egregious facts for our underlying charge, we focused on what Jackson did to Brandi during those seven years. We argued, “One child molested one time is a life sentence for that child.” But if there were jurors who didn’t want to give Jackson a life sentence for every instance of abuse, we gave them a simple formula. Testimony came out that Jackson raped Brandi once a week for seven years. We argued that jurors should give him one year for every instance of rape: That would be 364 years in prison (52 weeks in a year times seven years). This formula was easy for the jury, and they came back with two life sentences in under an hour.
This verdict helped make the world right again, because we had been living in Jackson’s world for over two years (and we weren’t even his victims). We were proud of the jury, proud to represent Brandi, and proud of ourselves for not giving up or falling for Jackson’s lies. We felt justice was served, even if Brandi couldn’t fully appreciate the verdict. Afterwards, she thanked us and moved back with her mother, Allison, and her parolee father, Lewis Zeine. Even though we tried to show her a better world, Brandi went right back to the world that was so cruel to her.
With so many forces haunting Brandi and crippling her ability to stand up for herself, we structured our case so she wouldn’t have to. We used every law available to us—Article 38.37 on extraneous evidence, Article 38.072 on outcry witnesses, and Article 38.49 on forfeiture by wrongdoing—to ensure Brandi’s escape from the clutches of Jackson’s sexual abuse.
1 Pseudonyms were used for all the victims in this case.
2 Tex. Penal Code §21.02(h).
3 Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 38.37, §1.
4 Hinds v. State, 970 S.W.2d 33, 35 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1998, no pet.).
5 We could not re-indict Jackson for aggravated sexual assault of Allison because we were barred by 1997’s statute of limitations (10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday).
6 Wheeler v. State, 67 S.W.3d 879, 888 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002)
7 Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 38.072, §2(a).
8 Marquez v. State, 165 S.W.3d 741 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2005, pet. ref’d).
9 Garcia v State, 792 S.W.2d 88 (Tex. Crim. App. 1990).
10 See Hernandez v. State, 973 S.W.2d 787 (Tex. App.—Austin, pet. ref’d).
11 Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 38.072, §2(b).
12 The fact that Brandi was 17 during her disclosure to Nancy did not affect her ability to be an outcry witness because the statute states the victim has to be a child, under 18