Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes
Assistant Editor 

No new trial in Justin Spence case


August 3, 2017

A motion for a new trial in a case against Justin Spence was denied Monday in Hot Springs District Court.

Spence was found guilty of incest on April 27, following a three-day trial. According to the charge, he molested a juvenile female on July 4 or 5, 2014. A motion for a new trial was filed in early May, and prosecuting attorney Marcia Bean noted the hearing on the motion was not within the allowed timeframe — 15 days from the motion filing and 60 days from the conviction —so it would be automatically denied based solely on that.

However, defense attorney Travis Smith presented argument for the new trial motion. He noted the “alleged victim” in this case delayed reporting any contact with Spence until she was confronted about her relationship with another male subject. Further, Smith said, she did not disclose that her relationship with the other male was ongoing.

Smith also argued that a counselor called during the trial was not identified as an expert and the defense had no notification he would be called as an expert witness, which violated Spence’s right of due process. He also argued the testimony of the counselor was prejudicial more than probative, and done only to bolster the testimony of the victim.

Though a caseworker with the Department of Family Services (DFS) was also called, Smith argued she presented no relevant evidence to the case, and her being called was an extreme attempt by the prosecution to vouch for the victim. Smith pointed out the caseworker said she was misled by the victim.

Bean said Smith opened the door with regard to the DFS caseworker, as there was video an audio recording of interviews with the victim. The prosecution’s position was to have parts of those interviews redacted; it was Smith who insisted the entire recording be played.

Bean noted Smith continues to assert credibility issues with the victim, but also asked about Spence’s credibility. She pointed out there were over 200 text messages between Spence’s phone and the victim’s during the dates of the incident. During the trial, it was indicated these texts were inappropriate and, at one point, Spence sent an inappropriate picture to the victim and asked for one in return.

As to the counselor, Bean noted he was on the witness list and pointed out he diagnosed the victim with a disorder due to a trauma, though he did not specifically name the trauma or where it came from. The testimony, Bean said, was not to bolster the victim.

Regarding the victim’s relationship with another male subject, Bean pointed out the jury heard that testimony and still found Spence guilty.

Judge Robert Skar denied the motion for a new trial based on both the fact that the motion was not heard in the allotted time and Smith’s arguments did not merit a new trial. A sentencing date for Spence has not been set.


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