Appeals court reverses in sexual assault case

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Alaska Court of Appeals this week reversed the conviction of an Anchorage man found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in 1997.

The three judges ruled that the lower-court judge erred by not allowing Joseph Midgett's lawyer to ask his accuser about her criminal record.

The accuser, known by the initials A.B., was charged with felony car theft while charges were pending against Midgett. She later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts.

Midgett's lawyer said he should be allowed to cross-examine A.B. about being charged with a felony involving dishonesty. Such inquiry is permitted under state rules of evidence.

The lawyer argued that A.B. might be biased toward prosecutors, and that prosecutors may have purposely reduced A.B.'s car-theft charge so her testimony against Midgett couldn't be impeached.

Superior Court Judge Elaine Andrews ruled that there was no connection between A.B.'s reduced charges and her testimony against Midgett.

But the appeals court said there was a potential for bias in A.B.'s testimony. The judges ruled that Midgett should have been allowed to bring out in court that A.B. was charged with a felony and that she was allowed to plead to lower counts.

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