H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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DNA, SANE Nurse – Expert Analysis in Colorado Sexual Assault Conviction May Have Made the Difference

The Following verdict in a Colorado Sexual Assault Trial demonstrates the many levels of testimony that can be admitted in a trial .. it is instructive at many levels for that reason
Jury convicts Valdez of sex crimes Thursday, Dec 30th, 2010
DEL NORTE, Colorado ・A Rio Grande County District Court jury deliberated for four hours before the criminal incest trial of Arthur Valdez ended with a verdict of guilty on two counts.

Valdez, 39, has an address in Alamosa and is reportedly a registered sex offender with a previous felony conviction, which qualifies him for enhanced sentencing for a repeat offense.
A hearing regarding the habitual sentencing enhancer for Valdez will be held Jan. 12, 2011. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 9.

Assistant District Attorney Crista Maestas told the jury that, throughout the trial, they had heard testimony from the alleged victim; school officials who knew the young woman better than her own family did; expert testimony from a Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) criminal laboratory analyst; the Sexual Assault Nurse Expert (SANE) who performed a physical exam on the girl, and from others who investigated the case.

Responding to defense allegations that the girl had lied and set her father up as an act of revenge, Maestas asked the jury, What did she (the alleged victim) get from this?・

He ended up homeless, she graduated and not a single family member was there. She had to undergo a horrible exam and tell her story repeatedly “why in the world would she possibly make this up?”

The defense claimed the alleged victim wanted revenge because she didn’t have the relationship she wanted to have with her father. The defense admitted Valdez was not a model father to his daughter, but said he was not on trial for that. They claimed Valdez thought his daughter would try to set him up and deliberately stayed away from her or had others with him when they were together.

Defense attorneys claimed a CBI Analyst findings from a sample on a pair of underwear was inconclusive for bodily fluids and only uncovered skin cells.

Maestas countered that the analyst reported that they were enucleated cells of some sort. The CBI also reported that the YSTR analysis matched all 11 sites. The YSTR is a specific DNA match test for the presence of the male or Y chromosome and the identity of the Y.

With all sites matching, the analyst reported the DNA sample could only have come from the defendant or one of his paternal male relatives.


H. Michael’s Take

In this case you have a classic frontal attack on the victim’s credibilit. The defense lawyer did an excellent job and had much to work with in this case in the area of witness credibility. However, notice the prosecution’s expert forensic evidence attack that went unrebutted for the most part.

The SANE nurse:

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Programs were created whereby specially trained forensic nurses provide 24-hours-a-day, first-response care to sexual assault patients in either hospital or non-hospital settings.

These nurses go well beyond the care of the alleged victims – they collect forensic evidence traditionally performed in hospital emergency departments. They document injuries and physical evidence, they document the alleged victim’s statements and their demeanor

The CBI – Colorado Bureau of Investigation Testimony
Here – even though the sample of the DNA evidence was questiionable – it was admitted and was most likely used by the jury to push the case over the beyond a reasonable doubt standard
Bottom Line: Defending an allegation of sexual assault is difficult under the best of circumstances — defending such a case without expert testimony to counter the State of Colorado’s nearly endless resources — is daunting — a war chest of defense funds is often necessary to mount an effective defense at times.