Court Orders New Trial After the Jury Was Improperly Shown Pornographic Pictures From a Computer Hard Drive

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          In the case of Joe Bryant versus the State of Florida, a jury convicted Mr. Bryant of the crimes of battery, handling or fondling a child under sixteen in a lewd, lascivious, or indecent manner, and showing obscene material to a minor.  The facts of Bryant’s case are as follows:


          "The fourteen-year-old victim testified that Bryant exposed her to obscene pictures on a computer, touched her inappropriately, and committed sexual battery by digital penetration. This allegedly occurred on the first night of a two-night sleep over with Bryant’s daughter at Bryant’s home. The [prosecutor] also presented as evidence obscene photographs, recovered from the hard drive of a computer at Bryant’s home, that had been generated the night of the sleep over. Although admittedly obscene, the images did not match the description of the pictures the victim described seeing. Also present at Bryant’s home on the night in question were Bryant’s eleven-year-old son, fourteen-year-old daughter and twenty-two-year-old daughter. They all testified at trial and denied observing any of the conduct leading to the charges.


          After [Bryant finished presenting his evidence], the [prosecutor] offered into evidence twenty-four additional photographs that had been recovered from the computer hard drive. The [prosecutor’s] computer expert revealed that these additional images were placed on the hard drive over a three-month period of time ending some two weeks to a month before the night of Bryant’s alleged criminal activity in this case. [Bryant] objected to the admission of these additional images."


          Bryant appealed his convictions, and the appellate court deciding his case ruled that he should receive a new trial because the prosecutor should not have been allowed to show the jury the twenty-four additional photographs that had been recovered from the computer hard drive.  The appellate court based its decision on the following three factors:


          1.  The prosecutor presented no direct evidence that the twenty-four photographs were placed onto the hard drive by Bryant even though, of all the people having access to that computer, Bryant was the one most likely to have viewed them.


          2.  Compared to the pictures shown to the jury during the first portion of the trial, the twenty-four additional photos revealed a distinct difference in subject matter.  More specifically, except for one pornographic cartoon, the first set of pictures showed undressed adolescent and pre-adolescent girls; however, the twenty-four additional photographs contained several images of sexual activity.


          3.  The prejudicial impact of the twenty-four additional photos far outweighed any value they may have had in proving that Bryant was guilty of the crimes he was charged with committing.

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