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Sufficiency of Evidence

WI Court of Appeals – District III

Case Name: State of Wisconsin v. Paul B. Jones

Case No.: 2020AP1496-CR

Officials: Stark, P.J., Hruz and Nashold, JJ.

Focus: Sufficiency of Evidence

Paul Brian Jones appeals from a judgment, entered following a bench trial, convicting him of first-degree sexual assault of a child under thirteen years old and from orders denying him postconviction relief. Jones was charged in November 2016, after Devin, then a five-year-old boy, reported that “Brian” had touched his penis while he was at his father’s home. Jones was known colloquially as “Brian,” and he was the only adult male present when the alleged sexual contact occurred.

Jones argues that insufficient evidence existed to convict him of the charged crime because while Jones was present in the courtroom, Devin testified that “Brian” was not present in the courtroom, and because Jones and his girlfriend, Johnnie Maria (“Maria”), both testified that Jones never touched Devin. We disagree that the evidence was insufficient. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and the conviction, a reasonable fact finder could find that someone had sexual contact with Devin and that Devin identified Jones as the offender by consistently stating that Brian had touched him. We therefore affirm the circuit court’s order denying postconviction relief on insufficient evidence grounds.

Jones also argues that he is entitled to a new trial because the circuit court relied on extraneous information when reaching its verdict. He contends that the court improperly relied on its own knowledge of sexual abuse victims experiencing nightmares and changes in behavior after an assault, and that it improperly researched case law regarding the legal effect of a victim being unable to identify the defendant in court. Although we reject Jones’s argument that the court improperly researched case law, we agree that the court improperly relied on its own knowledge of sexual abuse victims experiencing nightmares and changes in behavior. Such knowledge was not based on evidence admitted at trial, nor was it within the common knowledge of a layperson. We therefore reverse Jones’s conviction and remand for a new trial.

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Derek A Hawkins is Corporate Counsel, at Salesforce.

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