A unanimous court upheld the predatory criminal sexual assault conviction of a Cook County man whose admission, which he later retracted but which was presented to the jury, told a more serious story than that related by the then-8-year-old victim.
Jason Lara confessed to digitally penetrating the genitalia of the girl, whom his mother was babysitting, on two occasions in 2005, when he was 19. But the victim testified that Lara had only touched her on the surface.
Lara argued that under a long-held legal standard, the jury shouldn’t have been allowed to consider his confession because the girl’s testimony didn’t corroborate the confessed penetration. Without the confession, there was only enough evidence to convict him of a lesser charge, aggravated criminal sexual assault, he said.
Lara, sentenced to consecutive prison terms of 10 and eight years, claimed he had had an epileptic seizure while in police custody which made his confession unreliable.
Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, writing the court’s opinion, said the additional evidence the legal standard requires must merely “tend to show” a crime was committed. He said the victim’s testimony “reveals a close correspondence on virtually every detail of both incidents described” by both she and Lara.
“Defendant’s mental state and any discrepancies in the details … constitute disputed facts to be resolved by the fact finder, who has exclusive responsibility for determining the credibility of the witnesses,” Kilbride wrote.
Courts have held for more than a century that extra evidence is necessary because confessions are sometimes unreliable.
Lara argued that the standard requires the evidence to match elements in the confession. The victim never mentioned penetration, which made the assault more serious, so Lara’s attorneys argued that his confession could not be used because it wasn’t corroborated.
If you find yourself in a criminal situation you will need all the help you can get. Do not hesitate to get qualified legal help as soon as possible. Contact an experienced Cook County criminal defense attorney today to determine the best course of action for dealing with your criminal charges.