Court upholds conviction in Attala Co. sexual battery case

Published 7:35 pm Friday, March 14, 2008

The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Aaron Bishop, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2006 for sexual battery and touching a child for lustful purposes.

Attala County prosecutors said Bishop had committed sexual acts with his 4-year-old daughter.

On appeal, Bishop said he was denied the right to confront his accuser — his daughter — because the trial judge allowed hearsay testimony from the child’s mother and a therapist.

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Justice James E. Graves, writing Thursday for the Supreme Court, said the trial judge did not err in allowing the testimony. Graves said the trial judge was correct in finding that the child’s comments to her mother were spontaneous and not part of an investigation to bring charges against Bishop.

Graves said the trial judge also rightly determined that the therapist’s talks with the child were for the purposes of treatment and not to aid prosecutors.

Graves said the trial court also conducted an extensive hearing into Bishop’s objections and correctly applied the “tender years” exception to the hearsay rule.

The hearsay rule generally prohibits statements made out of the courtroom from being admitted into evidence unless the statement falls under a specific exception.

The tender years exception generally allows a parent or licensed professional to tell juries what abused children have told them, including descriptions of any act of sexual contact performed with or on the child by another.