- Essex District Attorney’s Office
Media Contact for Appeals Court: Rape Victim's Testimony is Sufficient Evidence
Carrie Kimball, Director of Communications
Lawrence, MA — In a published decision released on Friday, the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the convictions of a man found guilty of raping and indecently assaulting a 13-year old girl in Lawrence in 2016.
"This decision not only upholds this defendant's convictions, but also strongly affirms that the testimony of sexual assault victim can be sufficient evidence of the facts asserted at trial. Additional corroborative evidence or expert testimony is not required to support the testimony of the victim. It is for the jury to determine the credibility of that testimony," Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. "I applaud the Court for clearly articulating the basic concept that a rape victim is entitled to the same consideration as other crime victims in terms of credibility."
In November 2019, a jury found Gustavo Gonzalez Santos, now 53, guilty of rape of a child (unnatural intercourse) and indecent assault & battery on a child under 14 (hand on genitals).* He was sentenced to 11 to 12 years in state prison followed by 3 years of probation.
On appeal, the defendant argued that he Commonwealth did not present any witnesses, physical, forensic or medical evidence or expert testimony to corroborate the testimony of the victim and her testimony alone was not sufficient to support a conviction.
In its decision, the Court wrote, "Surprisingly, the Commonwealth cites no case, nor have we found one, that simply states what we now hold: The sworn testimony of the victim of a sexual assault, including rape, is evidence of the facts asserted. The testifying victim is a witness. We reject the defendant's contention that corroborative, extrinsic, or forensic evidence, or expert or third-party witness testimony, is required to support a conviction of rape or sexual assault where the victim testified as a witness at the trial. Of course such evidence, if properly admitted, may corroborate the victim's testimony, but it is not required to sustain a conviction. Here, the victim testified to facts that constituted each element of the charged offenses. Her testimony, which the jury found to be credible, was sufficient, standing alone, to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt as to each of the convictions.
“The idea that long infected our legal system that the victim's testimony in sexual assault and rape cases is less credible than the
testimony of victims in cases involving other types of crimes –-an idea that reflected nothing more than sexism and an unwillingness on the part of our courts to treat sexual crimes as the gravely serious matter that they are -– has been rejected both by statute and by common law.” (Read the full decision here: CW v. Gustavo Gonzalez Santos.)
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Erin Bellavia and Assistant District Attorney Kayla Johnson represented the Commonwealth before the Appeals Court.
* The trial judge, Judge James Lang, found him not guilty of indecent assault & battery on a child under 14 (mouth to mouth contact) because the victim's testimony did not include any reference to this allegation. The jury found him not guilty of aggravated rape of a child (natural intercourse).