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NMI Supreme Court affirms John Aldan’s sexual assault conviction

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(CNMI Judiciary) — On Sept. 14, 2020, the local Supreme Court issued its opinion in Commonwealth v. John Santos Aldan.

He was convicted by a jury of sexual assault in the first degree and disturbing the peace. The high court affirmed Aldan’s conviction and his sentence but vacated the trial court’s denial of his eligibility for parole.

Aldan argued that DNA evidence was wrongly admitted under NMI Rule of Evidence 702(d) because it used an inapplicable database of mainland United States DNA samples. The high court agreed that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the DNA evidence, but held that the error was harmless because there existed substantial independent evidence of Aldan’s guilt. This included the victim’s injuries, which were consistent with her testimony, as well as physical evidence found in Aldan’s truck.

Aldan also argued that his sentence was mechanically imposed and insufficiently individualized, and that the trial court erred in not justifying its denial of his eligibility for parole. The high court affirmed the sentence but vacated the denial of parole eligibility because the trial court did not provide reasons.

The high court’s full opinion is available at https://cnmilaw.org/pdf/supreme/2020-MP-20.pdf

 


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