(Appeal Capitol Bureau) The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new trial for Martha Flores, convicted of killing her 5-year-old stepdaughter.
Zoraida Flores was killed by blunt -force trauma to the head.
But the only direct evidence to support the state's charge that her death was murder by child abuse came through hearsay testimony from the defendant's 5-year-old natural daughter.
The girl never testified in court. Instead, the judge allowed an investigator to testify as to what the girl said when she interviewed her.
The high court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Bill Maupin, ruled the admission of the daughter's hearsay statements that she saw her mother hit the victim while trying to get her to take a shower violated the defendant's constitutional rights to confront and examine witnesses against her.
"The admission of the daughter's hearsay statements violated the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution," the opinion states.
The opinion says that violation, which deprived the defense of examining the girl directly even though she was available, requires that Martha Flores be given a new trial.
Court orders new trial in sexual assault case
The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered a new trial in a sexual assault case because a jury instruction violated the defendant's rights.
Anthony Carter argued throughout the case that the sexual act was consensual. The jury acquitted him of sexual assault but convicted him of attempted sexual assault.
At the end of the trial, Carter's lawyer offered a jury instruction that said if the jury has reasonable doubt whether the defendant believed the woman consented to sexual intercourse, it must give him the benefit of that doubt and acquit him.
The district court refused, instead giving an instruction which failed to address the issue of reasonable doubt if the sex was consensual.
The opinion says the court's instructions stated that consent was a defense to the rape charge but "did not additionally state that a reasonable doubt on that proposition required that the jury render a verdict of acquittal."
It says the defense was entitled to that instruction and that, therefore, Carter's conviction for attempted sexual assault must be overturned.
In the new trial, the court ordered, the corrected jury instruction must be given.