The Massachusetts Appeals Court today affirmed the aggravated rape conviction of a man who was identified by the victim who used her “extrasensory” powers to recognize the defendant’s “energy.” The name of the case is Commonwealth v. Coutu.
The defendant was charged with a number of serious crimes, including home invasion, aggravated rape, and robbery, following a horrific event that occurred in the victim’s home in March of 2006. Ayer police officers and firefighters responded to the victim’s apartment to address a small fire. Upon arrival, they found an object on fire in the bathtub and the victim lying on the floor near the bathroom. The victim was in shock. She was bleeding heaving from deep cuts on her head and had been stabbed below her left eye. She was airlifted to a Boston hospital for treatment of her extensive injuries.
The victim told the police she was woken up in the middle of the night by noises from someone breaking through her wall. She got out of her bed and saw a man going through her drawers. The victim screamed and picked up a yellow crowbar that was lying on her floor in an attempt to defend herself. The man grabbed her by the hair, threatened her, and demanded money, which the victim provided. The man then tied the victim to her bedpost and raped her. Following the rape, the man beat and sexually assaulted the victim with the crowbar. The victim woke up to the fire in her apartment.
The police began considering the defendant as a suspect when his sister reported he had been in the victim’s building earlier in the day and he had borrowed a yellow crowbar from her (the sister). The police executed a search warrant at the defendant’s apartment and found a yellow crowbar under his bed. They also found clothes with fragments of wallboard or plaster stuck to them (the assailant had burrowed his way into the victim’s apartment through a hole in the wall). The victim’s DNA was tied to the defendant’s clothes and the crowbar.
While still in the hospital, police officers showed the victim a photographic array containing the defendant’s photo. The victim looked at the defendant’s picture and said he was “definitely” not her attacker. However, during the trial, the victim was asked to identify the defendant in court. She said she might be able to recognize him if he stood up. The defendant stood and after walking close to him, the victim said he was the man who had attacked her. However, the victim did not recognize the defendant by his appearance. Instead, she recognized his “energy.” The victim worked as a “spirit medium” and claimed to assist people connect to deceased loved ones. She purported to have “divine guidance.”
Following his convictions, the defendant appealed and argued the victim’s identification of him by way of a sixth sense was improper. The Appeals Court agreed the victim’s supernatural recognition should have been excluded, as witnesses are only permitted to rely on their five worldly senses to perceive events. However, despite this error, the Appeals Court concluded there was not a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice because the other evidence against the defendant overwhelmingly proved his guilt. Accordingly, the defendant’s convictions for aggravated rape, kidnapping, and home invasion were affirmed.