This past week, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that Chris Simcox, the man accused of molesting two young girls, would be allowed to personally question his accusers in an upcoming trial.
The decision is the latest blow to prosecutors and victim advocates in this case, who have been fighting for months to prevent the unprecedented decision, that allows a sex-crime suspect, representing himself in court, to directly question his accusers on the stand.
District attorneys for the county are saying that the opinion’s wording that allows Simcox to cross-examine the young girls, could in fact allow them to be traumatized further.
During the Monday morning pre-hearing, Deputy County Attorney Katie Staab formally requested that Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jose Padilla look over the information one more time, in hopes of preventing the cross-examination of the girls.
“There are new experts that will be reviewing the materials for his case—new opinions that are not before the court right now,” she said. “It would be new evidence.”
It was obvious that Staab’s attempt was in direct reference to the Court of Appeals decision, in which the three judge panel’s final decision stated that prosecutors had failed to present enough evidence to prove that the witnesses would be further traumatized by Simcox’s questioning, also deferring to Padilla’s original decision to allow it as well.
“Because the state did not present such evidence—and in fact eschewed the opportunity to present evidence when invited—the trial court had no basis to restrict Simcox from cross-examining the child witnesses,” the opinion states.
On Monday, Padilla stated he was sympathetic to the children, but was concerned about the state getting, “multiple bites of the apple” when they had ample opportunity to present this evidence, yet didn’t. He further states that a new expert did not necessarily equate to “new” evidence.
It sets a bad precedent,” he said. “You’re going to have to convince me that that’s appropriate in this case.” He went on to say that the state would have to further convince him that there was new evidence that would prove the girls would be further traumatized by the cross-examination, wondering aloud in court whether any medical expert could answer that with any amount of certainty.
Simcox, who was present, yet handcuff during the hearing, casually leafed through a box of documents while seated in the jury box, nodded as Padilla spoke about his concerns. He first entered the public limelight as the co-founder of the highly publicized border-watch group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps., as well as his unsuccessful bid to challenge Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain in the 2010 election cycle.
Judge Padilla set a hearing date for these and other matters for May 27, and scheduled the trial for July.
Simcox faces two charges of child molestation, three counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of furnishing obscene or harmful items to minors. The charges of sexual conduct with a minor carry a mandatory life sentence, with possibility of parole after 35 years in prison.