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HomeNewsLocal newsV.I. Supreme Court Overturn Sexual Assault Conviction of St. Thomas Man, Orders...

V.I. Supreme Court Overturn Sexual Assault Conviction of St. Thomas Man, Orders New Trial

The Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands on Friday vacated the 2014 conviction of a St. Thomas man on charges related to sexual assault involving a minor female and ordered a new trial by the Virgin Islands Superior Court.

The territory’s high court’s order came in response to an appeal filed by Kelvin Pickering after a Superior Court jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old who attended a summer camp where he served as a counselor.

In an opinion issued by Justices Rhys Hodge, Ive Arlington Swan and Maria Cabret, the three-member panel opined that the lower court erred when it removed an empaneled juror without good cause and failed to conduct a hearing to demonstrate the cause for the juror being excused and an alternate juror being seated.

“This error prejudicially affected the defendant’s substantial rights, with a reasonable probability that the error affected the outcome of the trial,” the Supreme Court ruling stated.

The justices also addressed Pickering’s motion three days before trial in which he sought to exclude evidence of drinking or distributing alcohol to minors and his motion being deemed untimely. “While defendant was not charged with distributing alcohol to minors, the People solicited alcohol-related testimony from multiple witnesses, which was unfairly prejudicial, as it served no purpose other than to lure the factfinder into declaring guilt on a ground different from proof specific to the offense charged,” the justices wrote.

On Pickering’s motion to introduce evidence proving that the victim engaged in other sexual behavior, the Supreme Court found that no error was committed when the Superior Court blocked testimony that the victim was seen embracing another man. The justices noted that this exclusion of evidence did not deny Pickering his right to cross-examine the victim and otherwise put on a defense. 

Pickering was charged with several counts of second-degree aggravated rape, attempted aggravated rape and unlawful sexual contact in connection with the incident that occurred at a Lindbergh Bay beach party in August 2012.

The victim told authorities that Pickering forced her into the water, dragged her past the safety buoys, placed her legs around his waist, her arms around his neck, sexually assaulted her and attempted to have sexual intercourse with her. A physical examination by a medical doctor confirmed that the victim was sexually assaulted. 

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