Sandeep Munshi, a music teacher at a Hindu temple in Southwest Ranches, Florida, was sentenced found guilty of multiple sex offenses this week. A Broward jury convicted Munshi of six felony sex crimes relating to encounters he had with a 10 year old student. He is facing a mandatory life sentence as a result.
During trial, the State admitted photographs of semen on the classroom walls and floor and a two hour audio tape containing a conversation between Munshi and the victim’s daughter. At the end of the tape, Munshi supposedly confessed to the crime stating, “Whatever she says is correct…and I apologize for it.”
The jury also heard from the victim’s cousin who testified that Munshi had made sexual advances on her when she was only 14.
Knowing that this evidence would be admitted, on top of the victim’s testimony, and in the absence of any cognizable defense, it is unbelievable that Munshi chose to take this case to trial. Sometimes a client ignores the advice of his defense lawyer, even though that person explains why trial may not be an option.
Regardless, he now must appeal his conviction and hope that there is sufficient error to warrant a reversal. If I was his appellate lawyer, I would want to know more about the semen photographs and the testimony given by the victim’s cousin regarding her encounters with Munshi.
Presumptively, the photos should not have been admitted for two reasons. First, I wonder how the State was able to establish that the substance in the image depicted semen. Maybe the victim testified in great detail about how it got there.
Additionally, the image probably should have been excluded because its prejudicial nature likely outweighed its probative value. There is no doubt that pictures of semen splattered classroom walls would only serve to emotionally arouse the jury and invoke anger against the defendant. The law does not allow convictions to stand where jury’s verdict is predicated on evidence that is more prejudicial than probative.
Second, statements about a defendant’s prior bad acts are typically inadmissible under “William’s Rule” and the Florida Rules of Evidence. Hopefully the issue has been preserved for appeal.
At the end of the day, Munshi needs to get past the loss of his trial and focus his energy on preparing his appeal.
Most of all, we hope that the victim is able to obtain peace for herself and recover from such a traumatic event so early in her life.