IN CASE OF SEXUAL ABUSE OF 15-YEAR-OLD GIRL
The Office of the Public Defender wants the Office of the Attorney General to produce, prior to resuming the preliminary hearing, the police records and documents containing statements made by a 15-year-old girl who is the alleged victim of a sexual abuse.
Assistant public defender Jean Pierre Nogues, counsel for Peter Fritz Lizama, asked the Superior Court to order the OAG to provide the documents that police detective Wally Emul said he reviewed to familiarize himself with the case prior to testifying.
Nogues said in the context of a preliminary hearing, the interest of justice requires production of, at a minimum, the police report, witness statements, and physical evidence to the defense prior to the preliminary hearing.
Lizama, 22, is charged with four counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree.
A preliminary hearing began last Aug. 20. According to Nogues, as of the preliminary hearing, the only materials the prosecution had provided to the defense were the declaration of probable cause and the information.
At the preliminary hearing, Emul testified, among other things, that he would be able to refresh his memory if the case file was made available to him at the hearing.
At that point, the defense counsel moved for the production of the relevant materials.
This prompted Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho to adjourn the preliminary hearing. It will resume today, Friday, at 10:30am.
In the motion to compel production of police records that he filed last week, Nogues said that failure to provide the materials prior to the preliminary hearing would make it impossible for anyone to determine the reliability of the witness.
“It appears the prosecution in the CNMI typically relies not only on hearsay, but on layers and layers of hearsay to establish probable cause,” he said.
Nogues said this was certainly the case here, where Emul testified as to statements made by a witness to another officer outside of Emul’s presence.
He said there can be no question that providing the defense with the police reports, witness statements, and physical evidence prior to the preliminary hearing would aid in the evaluation of the credibility of hearsay statements.
Second, Nogues said, the defense cannot adequately cross-examine or impeach the witness without the benefit of the materials underlying the basis for the witness’ knowledge.
He said Emul testified he reviewed the reports prepared by other personnel who participated in the investigation.
Nogues said the detective even testified that there may be inconsistencies between what is actually contained in those reports and what he recollected of them on the record.
Police arrested Lizama last month for allegedly sexually abusing the girl who was then sleeping in her bedroom on Saipan.
Police said that during an interview, Lizama cried and confessed having sex with the girl.
The girl told police that it was the seventh time that Lizama sexually abused her and that the previous incidents happened in 2015.