Not Guilty Jury Verdict in a Rape Case in Philadelphia
The manager of a center city Philadelphia travel agency was charged with the rape and sexual assault of a female college student who had visited his place of business to purchase airline tickets for a spring break vacation. The defendant steadfastly denied that any assault had taken place and retained attorney Michael van der Veen to defend him against the very serious charges he faced.
This was not going to be an easy defense for van der Veen. There was considerable physical evidence in the prosecution’s case, including a mattress recovered from a back room of the travel agency and DNA evidence implicating the defendant.
DNA is the genetic material unique to every man, woman and child, except for identical twins. Each cell in the human body contains billions of strands of DNA, including the cells found in blood, hair, skin, saliva, and semen. If any of this biological evidence is left at a potential crime scene, a DNA analysis of these samples can determine with a near perfect degree of accuracy whether it matches the DNA of a criminal suspect. Because of the high degree of accuracy of this scientific evidence, a case such as this one is very difficult to defend. Difficult, but not impossible.
Attorney van der Veen recognized that while DNA evidence can be persuasive, it is not proof on its own that that a crime has been committed. At trial, van der Veen focused his defense on two key efforts. The first key was his cross-examination of the complaining witness, which was designed to support the defendant’s version of the events. Namely, that any activity between van der Veen’s client and the complaining witness was consensual. The second key to the defense was van der Veen’s attack on the prosecution’s DNA evidence and his ability to show that the DNA was not actual proof of a crime.
Ultimately the jury in this case returned a verdict of NOT GUILTY in favor of the defendant. Attorney van der Veen was able to move past the weight of the DNA evidence and create sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit his client. Not every attorney is talented enough to present a winning defense in such a complicated case, but for this defendant who maintained his innocence all along, the choice was simple- he was going to trial with his attorney, Michael van der Veen.
One of Philadelphia’s foremost personal injury, criminal defense and commercial litigation law firms, van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin combine nearly a century of passion-driven comprehensive law practice and client-centered representation for the full benefit of their clients. Their experience fighting for clients, serving the community and excelling in litigation has earned them the reputation as one of Pennsylvania’s toughest, hardest-working law firms.