November 30, 2020

An Assault in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn | Cup of Joe

An Assault in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

Opening Statements

The Prosecution:

Members of the jury, this defendant cowardly stalked and attacked a defenseless woman and tried to rape her after she entered the lobby of her Myrtle Avenue apartment building, before running off with her cell phone and cash. 

The evidence will show that John Duncan is guilty of burglary in the first degree as a sexually motivated felony, robbery in the first degree as a sexually motivated felony, attempted rape in the first degree, and sexual abuse in the first degree. It is your hands to hold John Duncan accountable and make sure he has plenty of time to think about his actions. Thank you.

The Defense:

People of the jury, keep in mind that what the prosecution said during their opening statement is NOT evidence. They have the burden of proving that John Duncan committed a sexually motivated felony for the purpose, in whole or substantial part, of his own sexual gratification.

It is the prosecution’s duty to prove beyond a reasonable double that John Duncan is, indeed, guilty of the crime. 

What is reasonable doubt? 

You like cats? Suppose that you took a cat and put it into a cardboard box with a mouse. You then tied the box tightly with a rope and left on a table, and you leave. You come back a half an hour later and open the box. When you looked inside, you found the cat but no mouse. That would be proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to what happened to the mouse. But what if when you had opened the box you again find just the cat, but this time, you find on the side of the box a small, mouse-sized hole. 

That little hole gives you a reasonable doubt as to what really happened. So pay attention to the People’s case and look out for the holes in their case. And find John Duncan, NOT GULTY.

Thank you.

Testimony of Jane Doe

Q: How old are you?

A: I’m 22 years old.

Q: And you live on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn.

A: Yes, ma’am. Bed-Stuy…Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Q: Can you please tell us what happened to you on the afternoon of March 10?

A: I went grocery shopping – it was about 1:00 in the afternoon. I was by myself.  I walked home and I went into my apartment building when…when…I’m sorry…

Q: That’s fine, Jane. After you walked into your apartment building, what happened next?

A: Yeah. So I went in past the lobby and I felt someone grab me from behind and put his arm around my throat. My groceries fell all over the place.  

Q: You said, “his.” How do you know it was a male.

A: Well, I could tell from his voice, at first. He told me he had a gun, and he said not to look at him.

Q: Did he say anything else?

A: He said that he wasn’t going to rape me, and that he was just going to rob me.

Q: And what did he do next?

A: He pushed me down the hall from the lobby and he took my cellphone and $60. Then, he pushed me down onto the stairs and pushed me onto my knees. I was so scared… He tied my hands behind my back. And then…then he ripped off my shirt and tore it into pieces…like he wanted me to see that.

Q: And then…?

A: Yeah…uh…he took a piece of my shirt and shoved it down my throat. I couldn’t breathe. Then he put his hand in my bra and then ripped off the bra and used it to cover my face. And he kept saying that he was not going to rape me. But he pulled down my pants and underwear, and he unbuckled his pants and belt. 

Q: What was going through your mind at that time?

A: I thought I was done for. I mean, I thought he was going to rape me and then kill me. Or kill me and then rape me! So I started screaming real loud…you know, begging him to let me go…

Q: Did he let you go?

A: He stopped touching me and he ran off. Then I went up to my apartment and called 911.

 Testimony of John Duncan

Q: How old are you, sir?

A: I’m 45 years old.

Q: I am going to show you a surveillance video from the supermarket where Jane Doe was shopping, okay?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And that is you depicted there in the video, right?

A: Yeah, that’s me.    

Q: And that is Jane Doe about 20 feet in front of you?

A: It looks like it could be, but I don’t know her.

Q: And there you are in this street surveillance where you are still following Jane near her apartment building?

A: I don’t know where Jane lives, but that is me there.

Q: Now, you have seen this video footage before, haven’t you?

A: Yeah…on the news.

Q: And one of your friends saw you on TV and called the police on you.

A: They were not my friend, at all. But the cops called me to come in, so I went in. Then they arrested me. But I didn’t do anything.

Q: John, this isn’t the first time you committed something like this before, is it?

A: Wut?

Q: In fact, you were convicted for robbery and sexual assault in 1990, right?


COURT: What is the basis of your objection, counselor?

DEFENSE COUNSEL:  Your Honor, evidence of other crimes may be presented to the jury to show motive, intent, the absence of mistake or accident, a common scheme or plan or the identity of the guilty party. But here, the People are bringing the 1990 conviction to the jury’s attention to inflame them against my client. They want the jury to assume that because John was convicted of a similar crime nearly 30 years ago, that he did it again on this occasion. That’s propensity evidence and is not allowed.

THE PROSECUTION: Your Honor, the similarities between the 1990 robbery and sexual assault and the attack on Jane Doe were are sufficiently unique and unusual and clearly establish a distinctive modus operandi relevant to establishing the John Duncan's identity as the perpetrator in this case. Both incidents involved robberies and sexual assaults of unaccompanied Caucasian women, during daytime hours, in the lobbies of residential buildings. 

COURT: The objection is OVERRULED! The jury will be permitted to consider the 1990 conviction.

The Verdict

We the Jury, find the Defendant, John Duncan, who is charged with first-degree burglary as a sexually motivated felony, first-degree robbery as a sexually motivated felony, first-degree attempted rape and first-degree sexual abuse, GUILTY on all counts.

John Duncan appealed, arguing that the jury should not have been made aware of the 1990 conviction.

The Appeal

The appeals court ruled that the trial judge was wrong to permit the People to present evidence regarding the 1990 robbery and assault in order to establish the John Duncan's identity, because the similarities between the alleged 1990 robbery and sexual assault and the attack on Jane Doe were not so unique as to give rise to an inference that the perpetrator of each crime was the same individual. BUT…

The error was harmless as to all of the charges except the attempted rape in the first degree because even without reference to the 1990 conviction, the evidence was overwhelming as to those other charges, and there was no reasonable possibility that the jury would have acquitted John Duncan on those charges. 


The conviction was affirmed except for the Attempted Rape charge – John will get a new trial on that charge alone. But no matter what, because the other charges stand, John will be doing no less than 40 years in jail. 

Click HERE for the case.

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