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State ex rel. Pope v. Superior Court

    Brief Fact Summary. The County Attorney acting on behalf of the State of Arizona brought a special action requesting that the Court reconsider existing law regarding the admissibility of evidence concerning the unchaste character of a complaining witness in a prosecution for rape.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Evidence of a Complainant’s prior sexual history should not be admitted in rape cases, with the exception of evidence of the Complainant’s reputation as a prostitute and her prior acts of prostitution as well evidence that the Complainant has made prior unsubstantiated rape claims.

    Facts. The County Attorney, acting on behalf of the State of Arizona, brought a special action requesting that the Court reconsider existing law regarding the admissibility of evidence concerning the unchaste character of a complaining witness in a prosecution for rape. Arizona, prior to this case, permitted the substantive use of the Complainant’s prior sexual history in rape cases [State v. Wood, 59 Ariz. 48 (1942)].

    Issue. Should the substantive use of evidence concerning the Complainant’s prior sexual history be permitted in rape cases?

    Held. No. State v. Wood, supra, overruled.
    Evidence of a Complainant’s prior sexual history should not be admitted in rape cases, with the exception of evidence of the Complainant’s reputation as a prostitute and her prior acts of prostitution as well evidence that the Complainant has made prior unsubstantiated rape claims.

    Where evidence of the Complainant’s reputation as a prostitute and her prior acts of prostitution as well evidence that the Complainant has made prior unsubstantiated rape claims is alleged to be sufficiently probative, the court stated that a separate hearing be held to determine its probative value.

    Concurrence. Judge Hays concurs with the result reached by the majority to overrule State v. Wood, however disagrees with the exceptions made by the majority.

    Discussion. This case introduces the motivations behind “rape shield” statutes. The idea is not that the Complainant’s sexual history lacks all probative value, but instead that the probative value is outweighed by its prejudicial effect.


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