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People v. Abbot

    Brief Fact Summary. After a woman accused a man of rape, the man was indicted for rape and assault with the intent to commit rape and, at trial, evidence concerning the accuser’s sexual past, character for truth and veracity, and general moral character was inquired into and objected to by the prosecution.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In a prosecution for rape, the female accuser’s alleged promiscuity may be inquired into, as may the general character of her truth and veracity and her general moral character, and the accuser is not privileged from answering such questions.

    Facts. The Defendant was tried for the crime of rape and, secondly, the crime of assault with the intent to commit a rape. The jury found the Defendant guilty of assault and battery only. The lower court entered judgment against the Defendant, and the case was removed to the current court by certiorari.

    Issues. In a trial for rape, or a trial for assault with the intent to commit rape, at which the female accuser testifies in support of the prosecution:
    May an accuser’s past sexual history with persons other than a Defendant be inquired into on cross-examination, and must an accuser answer such questions?

    May evidence be introduced to show an accuser to be a “common prostitute?”

    May evidence of any past voluntary sexual relationship between an accuser and a Defendant be presented, including evidence of specific, particular acts?

    May a magistrate, before whom a complaint for rape was made, be called to testify concerning an accuser’s statements to the magistrate regarding an accuser’s previous “carnal connection” to men other than the present Defendant?

    May evidence of the general moral character of an accuser be inquired into, along with evidence of an accuser’s general character for truth and veracity?

    Is evidence of a witness’s past character for truth and veracity admissible where the present character of the witness for the same is slightly impeached?

    When a Defendant is indicted for both rape and assault with the intent to commit rape, and a jury convicts of an assault and battery only, may a Court of General Sessions exercise jurisdiction over the Defendant?

    Held.
    Yes; an accuser’s past sexual history may be inquired into on cross-examination, and there is no privilege that protects her from answering.

    Yes; evidence may be introduced to show an accuser to be a “common prostitute.”

    Yes; evidence of past voluntary sexual encounters between an accuser and a Defendant may be presented, including evidence of specific acts?

    No; a magistrate, before whom a complaint for rape was made, may not be called to testify concerning an accuser’s statements to the magistrate regarding an accuser’s previous “carnal connection” to men other than the present Defendant, unless the inquiry is made for the purpose of showing a discrepancy in the accuser’s testimony.

    Yes; evidence of both the general moral character of an accuser and evidence of an accuser’s general character for truth and veracity may be inquired into.

    Yes; evidence of a witness’s past character for truth and veracity is admissible where the present character of the witness for the same has been slightly impeached.

    A Court of General Sessions may not exercise jurisdiction over a Defendant when a Defendant is indicted for both rape and assault with the intent to commit rape, and a jury convicts of an assault and battery only.

    Discussion. The reason the accuser must answer questions concerning her past sexual experiences, as stated by the court, is because offenses such as rape are, by their very nature, private matters. Therefore, the accuser is commonly the only witness to the alleged act other than the Defendant, and allowing the accuser to refuse to answer such a question would hinder the administration of justice. Also, evidence of past behaviors is a necessary method for showing the character of a witness, as it is impossible for character to be “brought into court and shown . . . at the moment of trial.”


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