State v. Tyrell

Oh wow! There are some things in this legal profession that just beg to be made public. I have to thank my good friend Marc Randazza for bringing this case to my attention.

The case is the State of Florida v. James Tyrell where Tyrrell is appealing his conviction of misdemeanor battery. riginally he was charged with three counts of sexual battery on a person twelve years of age or older, all second degree felonies. The facts presented by the government are fairly typical of a sexual assault case. But the crux of this case, and the issue that makes it unique is that Tyrell raised two defenses at trial. The first was that he had a very small penis, thus it likely didn’t cause the injuries complained of by the victim. And, second that the victim had caused her injuries herself with “aggressive use of a dildo.” Apparently at trial, Tyrell tried to get the victim to produce her dildo and consent to a dildo lineup. At trial, on July 23 and August 2, 2004, “the trial court ordered the victim to produce the sex toy and/or dildo discussed in her depositions within 15 days.” However, she never produced it.

On appeal, Tyrell argues that his

“right to due process and right to confront witnesses” was violated because the state did not produce the items that were the subject of the July 23 and August 2 orders. However, it was the victim, not the state, who was ordered to produce. The defense never moved to hold the victim in contempt for failing to turn over the dildo and medical records; there was no showing that the state possessed the items and withheld them from the defense. At trial, the victim described the dildo and explained in detail how she used it. Even if there was error in the court’s ruling about the dildo, the error was harmless. The jury did not need to see the actual dildo to understand the testimony or the nature of the defense.

Wow! I need to give credit to the victim who put her personal life out in the open. It can’t be easy talking about the subjects she was exposed to.

All in all, the orders of the trial court were affirmed and Tyrell’s conviction was upheld. You can read the Appeal here:Florida v. Tyrell

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4 responses to “State v. Tyrell

  • Dawn

    This case is interesting from an evidence standpoint.

    In Colorado, Section C.R.S. §18-3-407 limits the ability of attorneys to go into the sexual history of a victim or any other witness. The statute provides that evidence about specific incidences or prior or subsequent sexual conduct or opinion evidence of sexual conduct or reputation evidence about sexual conduct shall be presumed to be irrelevant. The statute, commonly known as, the rape shield statute, goes on to provide that the court shall decide prior to trial whether or not any such evidence should be admitted in front of the jury. A lawyer seeking to admit such evidence must file a written motion at least one month prior to the trial accompanied by an affidavit that sets forth an offer of proof as to what evidence will be offered and what the purpose of the evidence is.

    Asking the victim to talk about her sexual habits with a dildo seems to fall into this category. I am not sure how the defendant knew her sexual behaviors.

    Also, asking a urologist to testify to organ size in a sexual assault case is an interesting angle. I can’t imagine a victim remembering or wanting to recall the size of the defendant’s organ compared to ???

  • Evelyn

    I agree with you Andy when you said that the victim should get credit for putting her personal business out on the table like that. I think that it must have been difficult for both parties to go up ther and discuss these issues. Tyrell also put some personal business on the line. I would have liked to have been in the courtroom during this trial. It would have been interesting to see!

  • Stephanie James

    I agree with Dawn’s comments above. Asking the victim to talk about her sexual habits with a dildo is going too far into her sexual history, and goes against C.R.S. §18-3-407. Plus, the fact that the jury “did not need to see the actual dildo to understand the nature or testimony of the defense,” and “the trial judge disallowed the use of visual aids ‘not directly related to the charge'” (meaning that he/she didn’t want “demo” dildos present in the courthouse) shows that no one wanted to discuss this sensitive subject in further detail at the trial. I guess making the jury and the judge uncomfortable is not the way to win your lawsuit (go figure).

    The same holds true for Tyrell’s defense that his penis was too small to cause any of the victim’s injuries. As Dawn also notes above, this is an interesting (and unconventional) argument to make in court. I can only imagine what the jury and the judge (along with the prosecution and urologist) thought of this defense.

  • Kevin Hanks

    It seems to me in this case that Tyrell’s ignorance in claiming he could not have caused a certain type of damage due to his short comings would be easily defeated with testimony from a medical professional. I don’t understand how Tyrell’s attorney believed this would have been a defense that would have worked with the court and the jury anyway. Should they hold up a picture of both a dildo and Tyrell’s penis and somehow tell the members of the jury that clearly Tyrell could not have caused damage to the victim? It would be my hope that in the examination of the victim traces of Tyrell were found proving the contact. If Tyrell is asserting that the contact was mutually consented to, that is the angle the defense should play, and only that. This defense turns it into a he said she said case which is typical in rape cases. However, to get a jury to believe that a woman would cause damage to herself for the sake of framing him (which is what I can only guess Tyrell was asserting to) is as insane as saying Reginald Denny threw the brick in his own face to frame the L.A. rioters.
    Perhaps the best part is that Tyrell is now left in prison with a new reputation. The nicknames that personally come to mind are endless!

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