Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Man imprisoned for rape since 2003 to get new trial, or be released, because newly discovered evidence shows accuser claims she had been raped by up to eight different people on nine or more separate occasions

In 2003, James Eugene Grissom was convicted and sentenced to a 15 to 35 year prison term for allegedly raping a woman in a Michigan parking lot. Last summer, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the trial court to consider giving Mr. Grissom a new trial because of evidence discovered after his trial that casts doubt on the purported victim’s credibility. The decision is reported here: People v. Grissom, 2012 Mich. LEXIS 1231 (Mich. filed July 31, 2012).

According to a concurring opinion filed in that case by Justice Marilyn Kelly, the newly discovered evidence shows that the complainant reported to the police, family, or friends that she had been raped by up to eight different people on nine or more separate occasions.

Yesterday, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Cynthia Lane has recommended a new trial for Mr. Grissom. "Because the prosecution lacked physical evidence, the complainant’s credibility became the cornerstone of its case. Had the jury not believed the complainant, the prosecution would have had little evidence to support the defendant’s guilt,” Lane wrote in her opinion. Lane wrote evidence found after Grissom’s conviction might have affected the jury’s assessment of her credibility. That new evidence includes numerous other allegations of sexual assault by the victim in California. “... The other newly discovered evidence is exculpatory because it tends to make the complainant’s testimony about the [instant] assault unbelievable — and thus tends to prove the defendant’s innocence,” reads a portion of Lane’s opinion.

Sara Ylen told investigators she was attacked May 12, 2001, in the Fort Gratiot Meijer parking lot in broad daylight. She didn’t report the rape until June 2002. Lane wrote that Ylen was portrayed differently by local prosecutors and California police officers. Here, Ylen was depicted as a “courageous wife and mother who struggled to overcome unthinkable shock and embarrassment,” Lane wrote. In California, investigators said she was “a woman with a traumatic childhood who actively participated in an on-line rape support group before she was raped; who concocted incredible stories of abduction and gang rape in apparent attempts to gain attention; and who made anywhere between one and nine prior false accusations of rape.”

Lane’s opinion has been turned over to the Supreme Court, which will determine what happens next. St. Clair County Prosecutor Mike Wendling said that if it is determined the case should have a second trial, the prosecutor’s office will determine if it moves forward. “Then we have to make a decision as to where we’ll go, and our decision will come relatively quickly because there is an individual waiting," he said. “We’ll just have to weigh it all out, see if justice will support another trial and if there’s any reasonable likelihood of a conviction with the evidence we’re presented with, including the newly discovered evidence,” he said.

The state Supreme Court decision contains ample information about the prior false rape claims. Justice Markham wrote:

A review of the newly-discovered evidence in this case indicates the following:

-- In California, approximately four months after the reported assault at issue in this case (but before the complainant reported that assault), the complainant called her father and told him she had been kidnapped and was being held in a room with no windows. Her father told the police he did not believe the com-plainant, explaining that he was "afraid it's just a smoke screen" because com-plainant "likes to have a lot of attention." Finally, the complainant's husband told police that her clothing and toothbrush were missing.

-- Police discovered that the com-plainant was actually in California staying with friends, and that she had told those friends that she had been raped several times, including by her brother in Colorado, and that her husband had been "in on it."

-- When contacted by police, the complainant stated that a man and woman had kidnapped her at knife point, driven her to a concrete block room with no lights or windows, and given her six large, white pills. The complainant stated that the man robbed her of her jewelry.

-- The complainant then recanted her report of the robbery and kidnapping, stating that it "never occurred" and that her friends, whom she had met in an online rape support group 18 months ear-lier, had picked her up from the restau-rant.

-- The complainant explained that she had joined the rape support group before being raped in Michigan because "she was raped when she was six years old" and "she has been in and out of support groups and therapy for years." However, the complainant's husband expressed "a difficult time believing [she] was telling the truth."

-- The complainant told the police that she had planned to spend the night with her friends without telling her hus-band or family and had fabricated the kidnapping story to "buy some time" to be alone.

-- The complainant then gave a third version of what happened outside the res-taurant, one that was strikingly similar to the assault at issue here. The complainant told the police that she never went in the restaurant; instead, a man grabbed her, put a knife to her back, and assaulted and raped her in the restaurant parking lot between two parked cars. The complainant then stated that she went in to the restaurant and had lunch with her family.

-- When asked about the complain-ant's reported rape in the parking lot of the restaurant, her mother reported that the complainant was never alone in the parking lot of the restaurant. Rather, the complainant had gone in the restaurant with the rest of the family and appeared fine at lunch.

-- When the complainant went to the hospital after reporting the rape in the restaurant parking lot, she told the police that the man had inserted a small, hand-held, gray flashlight into her vagina, as well as penetrating her digitally and then with his penis. The complainant said that the man wore a green mask and fled when she began screaming and hitting him. The complainant "had some injuries consistent with a sexual assault."

-- The complainant then told the po-lice that in Colorado she had been raped by her brother's friend, who had "tracked her down" at her motel. She later recanted this story and denied that any assault had occurred in Colorado.

-- The complainant told the fiancé of her friend from the online rape support group that her brother and his friends had gang-raped her 18 months earlier and that they had been convicted. The complainant said that her brother had found her in Colorado after he was released from jail and raped her again and that she thought her husband was also involved.

-- The complainant's friend's fiancé, a police officer, reported that the com-plainant had lied to them, that she might be mentally unstable, and that he was worried she might raise false allegations about him.

-- . . . the California police reports "show that complainant reported to police, family or friends that she had been raped by at least eight different people on at least nine separate occasions."

Sources: http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20121002/NEWS01/310020011/Judge-Give-Grissom-new-trial?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE%7Cs and People v. Grissom, 2012 Mich. LEXIS 1231 (Mich. filed July 31, 2012).