A Clintonville native recently won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jamie Resch, a 1992 Clintonville High School graduate, is now a senior deputy attorney general in Nevada.
He is also the brother of Nicolas Resch, who was murdered in New London in 2005.
That experience makes him especially sensitive to the rights of victims and the need to pursue justice.
“We are the last line of defense for upholding convictions,” Resch said regarding his role as a special prosecutor handling federal appeals. The case Resch won in June will help keep a rapist behind bars.
On the night of Oct. 21, 1998, Calvin Jackson entered the home of his ex-girlfriend, threatened to kill her with a screwdriver, raped her, then dragged her by the hair and neck toward his car. He fled the scene when a witness confronted him.
After she reported the incident to police and Jackson was arrested, the woman went into hiding. She told the court Jackson had threatened to kill her if she testified.
A jury later convicted Jackson of sexual assault, and he was sentenced to life in prison. In fact, he was sentenced to four life sentences due to the violent nature of his crime.
While in prison, Jackson began appealing his conviction. The Nevada Supreme Court denied his appeal, as did a federal circuit court.
However, the 9th District Court of Appeals ruled Jackson had to either be retried or released.
Jackson’s appeal was based on the trial court judge’s decision to bar evidence he felt was essential to his defense.
Jackson’s attorney tried to make the case the victim had previously made unsubstantiated reports to police in which she accused Jackson of raping her.
The defense sought to subpoena the officers who had received the victim’s earlier reports and to enter the reports into evidence. The trial judge refused to allow the officers to testify or to admit the earlier reports as evidence.
Although Nevada state law finds such evidence inadmissible, the district federal court ruled the trial court’s ruling violated Jackson’s constitutional right to present a complete defense at a fair trial.
“Those were never shown to be false reports,” Resch said, noting such evidence is not pertinent to the case which was actually being tried. “This stuff was collateral. The victim was not the one who was on trial. The jury was there to determine whether the defendant was guilty of this particular crime.”
The Nevada attorney general’s office appealed the 9th District Court’s decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case.
“A defendant has a qualified right to present evidence that would constitute a defense to the matter being determined by the jury,” Resch argued in his brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. “This Court has never held, however, that the right to present a defense includes the right to present evidence designed solely to denigrate the credibility of a witness concerning a matter not being determined by the jury.”
The Supreme Court agreed with Resch’s assessment of the issue.
Jackson’s “proffered evidence had little impeachment value because at most it showed simply that the victim’s reports could not be corroborated,” the high court noted. “The admission of extrinsic evidence of specific instances of a witness’ conduct to impeach the witness’ credibility may confuse the jury, unfairly embarrass the victim, surprise the prosecution and unduly prolong the trial.”
Resch told the County Post the earlier reports had not been corroborated because the victim, after initially contacting police, did not follow up with them because she feared retaliation.
“It was an abusive decade-long relationship,” Resch said. “She was so afraid of him that she moved without telling him where.”
Resch said winning a case before the U.S. Supreme Court is a once in a life time experience for most attorneys.
He noted the U.S. Supreme Court receives an average of 8,000 requests for a case to be heard annually, but only reviews about 85 of those cases.
Of those 85 cases, only six result in a summary reversal such as occurred in Resch’s case.
“So I might be in Las Vegas now but those are some long odds,” Resch said.
Resch said he was excited to have played a role in the case against Jackson.
“It’s a great feeling to see justice done in a case like this, particularly when it involves a violent felon who deserves to be locked up,” he said.