The Connecticut Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a Waterbury man who was convicted of rape after a judge allowed the prosecution – during his trial – to change the date they claimed the crime had took place, thereby eliminating his alibi defence.
Judge Andrew McDonald’s court ruling said there are circumstances in which it is justified to allow prosecutors to amend charging documents to change the date they claim a crime was committed.
But in the rape case, the court said in a unanimous decision that prosecutors knew two to four weeks before trial that the dates in the criminal information were wrong and that they should have told the defendant, Bernard J Peluso, at that time. his defense could react.
Peluso is in prison and can plead for his immediate release. He was convicted of multiple crimes of assault and sexual abuse and began serving a 12-year sentence in January 2015. His lawyer, James Sexton, would not discuss the case.
Peluso was accused of abusing the underage daughter of a neighboring family in his apartment in the condominium complex where he and the neighbors lived. Years after the abuse, the victim told a classmate about it, and Peluso was eventually charged when the allegation reached school administrators and police.
The victim first told police she had been abused in 2010 and 2011. But up until a month before trial, as she prepared with the prosecution, she said the abuse had taken place. place years earlier. At trial, she testified that it happened when she was in third grade, in 2008 and 2009.
Peluso, who was charged with offenses that allegedly took place in 2010 and 2011, has asked for an immediate acquittal. Prosecutors asked the judge to allow them to change the dates on the charging documents they filed with the court at the start of jury selection about three weeks earlier. Peluso protested that he planned a defense based on not living in the condo in 2010 and 2011.
Arguing that the date change was justified and did not interfere with Peluso’s trial rights, the prosecution claimed he knew he was charged with crimes during the time he lived in a condominium. , regardless of the specific year. And they said it’s well established that the memories of children, especially those who have experienced abuse, can be inaccurate.
The trial judge agreed, as did the state appeals court. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction and returned the case to the trial court.
“By focusing their respective just cause analyzes primarily on (the victim’s) age – and gaps in the testimony of minor victims regarding dates, generally – the state, the trial court and the Court of appeal were distracted from the central issue at hand,” the Supreme Court said.
“The relevant inquiry is not whether the state had good reason to change the information at any time in light of the age of the minor victim and more specific testimony at trial regarding the timing of the alleged abuse,” the court said. “Rather, the relevant inquiry is whether the state had good reason to change its information after the start of the trial, notwithstanding the fact that it first became aware – two to four weeks before the start of the lawsuit – that the alleged delay in his information was inaccurate.