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People v. Wilhelm

    Brief Fact Summary. Wilhelm (D) argued that he was wrongfully prevented from bringing in evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct with another.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. A rape shield statute may properly prevent evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct with another.

    Facts. Wilhelm (D) was in a bar with the victim. They were not together, however. At the trial, Wilhelm spoke of having seen the victim expose her breasts to two men sitting at the table with her, and of her allowing one of them to fondle her breasts. Such evidence was prohibited under the rape shield law of the state, which did not allow evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct with another party. Wilhelm was found guilty, but appealed the verdict under his Sixth Amendment rights.

    Issue. Is it permissible for a rape shield law to prevent evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct with another from being presented?

    Held. (Per curiam) Yes. A rape shield statute may properly prevent evidence from being presented if it concerns the victim’s sexual conduct with another. The fact that this conduct was public does not mean that she was not under the statute’s provisions. The statute is meant to prevent unwanted questioning of the victim as to her past sexual history and the need for her to justify her past sexual conduct, under the guise of holding an impartial inquiry into the actions of the accused on the day of the incident for which trial is being held. The other justification for this opinion is that the consensual conduct of a woman with one party does not justify a third party in assuming that she would behave in the same way with him. The conviction is affirmed.

    Dissent. N/A

    Concurrence. N/A

    Discussion. In this case, the court pointed out that inability to provide prohibited evidence of the victim’s behavior because of the rape shield law does not mean the defendant does not have the right to confront the witness, since the prohibited evidence is not relevant to the question of whether she consented to have sexual intercourse with the defendant.


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