One of four rape convictions for a Memphis man was overturned Wednesday by an appeals court that said while elements of his other crimes were similar the one at issue, they could not be used as evidence against him.
Deandrey Peterson was convicted by four juries of raping four women in a 2014 spree. For one of those, on February 12, 2014, he was convicted of aggravated rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and possessing a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony.
That conviction was overturned this week and a new trial was ordered for Peterson. James Curwood Witt Jr., a judge with the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, delivered the opinion Wednesday.
Witt’s opinion said the original court, the Shelby County Criminal Court, erred by admitting evidence in the case that was insufficient to identify Peterson as the perpetrator.
During the trial, prosecutors allowed testimony from two of Peterson’s other victims. Details of their cases closely matched those from the plaintiff in the case, the rape victim from Feb. 12.
The women all lived in the same apartment complex in Raleigh. They all said their rapist covered his face and ransacked their apartments. The perpetrator asked if he could perform oral sex on two of them.
He wore a condom when he raped all of them and spoke in a “soft manner.” He asked them all if they had any nude photos of themselves on their phones.
But it wasn’t enough for the appeals court judges.
“The closest thing to a ’signature’ or imprimatur was the perpetrator’s asking each of the three women whether they had nude pictures on their cellular telephones,” Witt wrote in his opinion. “This was not so unusual or distinct, however, ‘that reasonable people would conclude that the same person committed all of the offenses.’”
Judges said the cases were similar but that they had many differences, too. The perpetrator wore different clothes and covered his face with different things (a Chanel scarf, a white handkerchief, and a ski mask). Two were blindfolded; one was not. Only one victim was forced to “rub his penis with her hand.”
Those differences, the court said, made their similarities inadmissible as evidence.
”In our view, the record does not support the ruling of the trial court,” reads Witt’s opinion. “Although we agree with the trial court’s conclusions that identity was a material issue at trial and that the state established the other crimes by clear and convincing evidence, we cannot agree that the offenses committed against (the other victims) were sufficiently similar to the offenses at issue in the defendant’s trial as to qualify for admission under evidence (rules).”
Peterson was sentenced to 30 years for the crime. He’s now held at the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville and will remain there serving time on his other three rape convictions. He is not eligible for parole until 2045, according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
No date has yet been set for his new trial.