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State v. Ramos

Decided: April 22, 1985.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANGEL RAMOS, DEFENDANT



Menza, J.s.c.

Menza

The question presented in this case is whether various statements made by an infant victim of a sexual assault to her mother after the occurrences of the alleged assaults are admissible as either fresh complaints, spontaneous utterances, or both.

The facts of this case are generally as follows. At the beginning of the school year in September 1984, the alleged victim, a second grade student, age seven, brought home material prepared by the school authorities to assist parents in speaking to their children concerning sexual matters. At that time the victim's mother cautioned her daughter not to allow persons to touch her "private parts". In the discussion, the child asked whether this included the defendant, to which her mother responded that it did. The child then indicated that the defendant had touched her private parts on various occasions.

She did not specify the dates of the occurrences. Her mother, apparently not fully believing her daughter, told the child that she would talk to the defendant's wife.

On October 6, 1984, the child, upon arriving home after spending the night at the home of the defendant and his family, asked her mother if she had spoken to the defendant's wife. She stated that the defendant "did it again" explaining that he had touched her private parts. The mother testified that the child's demeanor appeared to be "normal" at the time she made the statements.

On October 28, 1984, the child and her mother drove to the defendant's house to pick up a book which the mother had left at the defendant's home. On approaching the house the child started to cry and told her mother to park the car a distance from the house. The child requested that she be permitted to remain in the automobile while her mother entered the defendant's house. On returning home, the child, who was the in a very emotional state and crying, repeated to her mother what she had told her on October 6, 1984; she also told her mother of other acts of sexual misconduct committed upon her by the defendant.

The prosecutor wishes to introduce into evidence the statements made on these three occasions. The defendant objects contending that although the statements made by the child in September 1984 could possibly be characterized as a "fresh complaint", the statements of October 6, 1984 and October 28, 1984 are not admissible as either fresh complaints or spontaneous declarations. He contends that the victim was not under a state of nervous excitement when she made the statements on October 6, 1984 and that the statements of October 28, 1984 were not made in proximity to the event. Therefore, he argues that statements made on neither occasion meet the criteria of a spontaneous declaration. The defendant further contends that these statements are also inadmissible as fresh complaints. He argues that if the court allows into evidence, as a fresh complaint,

the statements of September 1984, there is no necessity for the admission of the statements made on October 6 and on October 28, 1984 because they would be redundant, serve no basis and consequently be prejudicial to the defendant.

Professor Wigmore sets forth three principles as the basis for the admission of statements made by the victim of a sexual assault:

There are three possible principles, well enough established otherwise, upon which such ...


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