The Sixth District Court of Appeals has overturned four life sentences imposed against a defendant who was found guilty of rape in a Wood County case from 2020.
As reported by the Sentinel-Tribune, the Court of Appeals ruled to overturn Gregory Kamer Jr.’s sentences on the basis that the lower court improperly admitted numerous incriminating statements through hearsay testimony. Kamer, who was indicted on 12 charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of a child, had been in a relationship with the child’s mother when the child told a family member of the alleged misconduct.
During his trial, the court allowed the mother, over Kamer’s objections, to testify about the specifics of the alleged abuse disclosed to her by the child. She later testified about the child’s history of fabricating stories. Kamer also objected to hearsay information provided by a detective who had received the information from a child abuse investigator, who was also allowed to testify about her interview with the child after the trial court judge overruled an objection from the defense.
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Upon cross examination, the nurse who examined the child testified that she found no evidence of assault. Nevertheless, the jury found Kamer guilty on four counts of rape and one count of gross sexual imposition. He was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole plus an additional 30 months.
On appeal, Kamer contended that the district court judge erred by allowing hearsay evidence over objection and by refusing to admit evidence that would have allowed the defense to impeach the complaining witness’s credibility. He further contended that the court permitted testimony from the police detective, child abuse interviewer, and nurse despite none of them being expert witnesses.
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In its ruling, the appeals court held that the trial court did err in allowing the nurse to testify about her findings, as those opinions were not disclosed to the defense and that testimony from Kamer’s stepdaughter was inadmissible and prejudiced Kamer. It also found the other hearsay evidence – particularly the child’s incriminating statements as provided through the detective and investigator’s testimony – was improperly admitted and likely affected the verdict.
Criminal Defense Attorney Brad Koffel, who has decades of experience practicing in Ohio courts and representing clients charged with serious felonies and sex crimes, commented on the case:
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“This case represents many, many travesties of the criminal justice system involving alleged child victims. The rule against hearsay was broken so many times in this case it is hard to fault the jury’s verdict. Also, the trial judge made grave errors that led to a man being sentenced to multiple life sentences.
The defense bar of Ohio is proud of the work by Mr. Kamer’s appellate lawyers in getting his conviction reversed. This is a very, very rare appellate decision.”
You can read more coverage about the case from the Sentinel-Tribune.