Court of Appeals affirms verdict in Nobles County crim sex case

The court wrote that there was no evidence that the questioned testimony affected the jury's verdict.

In the courts

ST. PAUL ― The Minnesota Court of Appeals heard a Nobles County criminal sexual conduct case, and filed a ruling Monday that upholds the conviction determined in district court.

Last September, Generson Ruiz-Lainez, 20, of Worthington, was convicted of five counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct after a jury found him guilty of sexual conduct with two 13-year-olds. He was sentenced to 60 months in prison.

The appeal was filed on the grounds that at the trial, the physician's assistant who had interviewed both victims was called as a witness. In her testimony, the PA said that the victims' statements were "consistent with sexual abuse." According to Ruiz-Lainez and his legal counsel, that statement "impermissibly vouched for their (the victims') credibility."

Legal precedent has established that one witness is not allowed to vouch for the truthfulness of another witness ― only the jury is allowed to determine who they believe is telling the truth. However, the Court of Appeals noted that Ruiz-Lainez did not object to the PA's testimony during the trial. Therefore, the court evaluated whether or not the phrase in question meets the definition of "plain error": that is, 1) there must be an error, 2) that error must be plain or clear and 3) the error must affect the substantial rights of the defendant.

In other words, Ruiz-Lainez needed to prove that the PA's commentary had a significant affect on the jury's verdict.


Related: Appellate court denies appeal in Worthington crim sex case
The appellate court wrote that the PA did not give her opinion about whether or not the victims were being truthful ― just that what the victims disclosed to her looked like sexual abuse. The court conceded that the PA probably should not have made such a judgment, but that steps 2 and 3 of the "plain error" test have still not been met.

As the prosecutor did not ask the PA to vouch for the victims and did not use the statement in the closing argument, the court of appeals felt that the possible error did not affect the outcome of the trial.

The court affirmed the district court's conviction.

The Southwest Crisis Center is available in our community to support and empower survivors of sexual and domestic violence. For questions about services or how you can help contact the Southwest Crisis Center at 800-376-4311 or .

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