1st Degree CSC Charges Held for Trial...
January 13, 2012
The criminal case of Michael Terpening picked up two new charges of 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct on a child under 13 years old, on Friday, January 13, 2012. The witness, allegedly 10 years old at the time of the alleged assault identified Terpening sitting with his lawyer in the Barry County District Court.
In a preliminary hearing, a district court judge determines whether or not sufficient evidence exists for criminal charges to proceed to circuit court for trial. In the case of Michael Terpening, a 22 year old witness identified the defendant relating to the court he was sexually abused as a 10 year old child.
As a point of law, district courts do not determine credibility of witnesses. Credibility of witnesses is a matter for the jury when the case proceeds to trial. For example, if this same witness stated the alleged sexual assaults took place on July 10 at 12:00 PM, on a day when the temperature was 10�, there were neon green clouds in the sky, and there was a full Moon court would have no choice under Michigan Court Rules but to hold the case or trial in the Barry County Circuit Court.
The salient issues in a preliminary hearing are whether or not there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and whether probable cause exists to believe the defendant committed that crime. Whether or not a witness is believed is a matter for the finder of fact, the jury.
In our adversary system, the defense will be able to question the witness. In the example above, the defense will surely present information from the National Weather Service showing it was not 10�on any July 10th ever in the history of their recording temperatures in the area. The defense will also present evidence no full Moon was ever present on any July 10 at 12:00 PM. Finally, the defense will address the question of neon green clouds in the sky.
The jury, as the finder of fact, decides whether to accept all, part, or none of the testimony of every witness. In this case the district court had no choice but to hold these charges of first degree criminal sexual conduct for trial, according to court rules of the State of Michigan. The court can only accept testimony of the witness for the purposes of the preliminary hearing as a defense did not present evidence stating no sexual assault ever occurred. The defendant is not required, under Michigan law in the U.S. constitution, to give testimony. However, the absence of evidence is not evidence the alleged sexual assaults did not occur.