I've edited the first paragraph for clarity.
If you've been reading the blog for long, you know that the first issue brought up in Coy's Habeas Corpus was that his defense lawyer failed to object to the prosecution, and prosecution's witnesses, repeatedly referring to the complainant as 'the victim' in court. I have been staring at this paperwork for over a year now, and it just never really jumped out at me until now. This week I started reading the court's response more carefully, and...Holy shit.
The defense lawyer tried to file a 'motion in limine' to prevent the state and the state's witnesses from referring to the child as 'victim.' Since it hadn't been proven that anything had happened to her, it makes sense. 'In limine' means 'at the start', and from what I can find these motions are usually submitted before the trial, when they were deciding what evidence and witnesses could be used.
I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like an oddly specific request. Like, “please don't knee me in the balls and then infect me with the Ebola virus.” Why would you even bring it up if there wasn't a good reason to believe it was going to happen?
This motion was denied, presumably by the judge. I'm trying to find a copy of the paperwork, but until then I'm going off what's written in the response to Coy's Habeas Corpus.
So...What does this look like to me? It looks like Lewis, a former prosecutor, tried to head off a strategy that he knew would be employed during the trial; implying to the jury that there was no question a crime had occurred, and creating a victim. Once he was told “Sorry, we're not going to prohibit the home team from breaking the rules”, he was left with a choice. Object repeatedly whenever the term is used and 'antagonize' the jury, as the Appeals Court put it, or let it slide unless the breach was extremely obvious.
On page 13 of the Habeas Corpus, the Appeals Court said “...merely referencing O.S. as a “victim” does not undermine confidence in the outcome of the trial...”
But Coy's defense strategy was built around the idea that nothing actually happened to the child in question; that there was no crime committed, and therefore, no victim. A decent strategy, I guess, given the lack of physical evidence, except that the State, who's case was built on this child's testimony, undermined it by telling them repeatedly that she was the victim.
By allowing it, the court discounted Coy's entire defense. Nothing presented in his favor mattered because they established at the very beginning that they had a victim; if you have a victim, someone must have victimized her.