State v. Stephen J.R.
Where the defendant is charged with sexually abusing a child, "generic" or "nonspecific" testimony about largely undifferentiated, but distinct, occurrences can provide sufficient evidence to support separate and distinct charges by the state. Following a jury trial, Stephen J.R. was convicted on eight counts each of sexual assault in the first degree and risk of injury to a child, concerning accusations made by his former girlfriend's daughter, J, for acts allegedly occurring from April 2002 to April 2003 when J was approximately seven years old. The defendant appealed claiming, principally, that the evidence regarding the number and distinguishing features of each incident was insufficient to prove each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. The 16 counts were predicated on four separate incidents with, for each incident, two counts of sexual assault for an act of fellatio and an act of cunnilingus and two corresponding risk of injury counts. For the first incident, the defendant's claim was found wholly without merit. While a victim's testimony need not be corroborated to be sufficient to support a conviction, there was corroboration from J's mother about her daughter's attitude change toward the defendant. For the three remaining incidents, the Supreme Court applied the three factor approach to generic testimony from the 1990 California Supreme Court case of People v. Jones and determined that sufficient evidence supported the convictions on each count. First, J described the kind of acts that occurred—fellatio and cunnilingus—with sufficient certainty. Secondly, J described the number of acts with sufficient certainty to support each count alleged. She testified to three to four occurrences while in a recorded interview introduced at trial, she indicated that the acts occurred five to six times, perhaps 10 times. The jury reasonably could have found the earlier recorded statement more credible than J's later testimony. J stated where the acts occurred—the bedroom—and when—during the hour and a half she was home alone with the defendant while her mother worked. J distinguished the events insofar as she testified that, as inducements for performing the acts and keeping them secret, the defendant took her for ice cream several times and miniature golf once. Third, the evidence established the general time period, although not required under Jones given no statute of limitations concerns.