Brief Fact Summary. The victim claimed sexual assault by the defendant. The parties had previously engaged in consensual sex, but on the night in question, the victim claimed she was assaulted and the defendant claimed it was consensual. The defendant attempted to offer a prior instance of sexual conduct between the victim and another man, which was not allowed by the trial court.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Evidence of a victim’s prior sexual conduct is not admissible unless excluding it violates the defendant’s constitutional rights, or if the probative value outweighs the prejudicial potential.
The victim claimed she was sexually assaulted by the defendant on February 20, 1983. The victim previously engaged in sexual relations with the defendant prior to the incident. The victim saw the defendant at a bar on the evening of the incident, and went home with him. The victim willingly undressed and got into the defendant’s bed. The victim claims the defendant then forced her to have sex, yelled at her, and abused her. He told her to leave and he threatened to kill her if she called police. The victim left, flagged down a police car, and was taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries. The defendant claimed the victim consented, requested to be tied up, and eventually started acting hysterically, swinging at him, and slapping him. He also claimed she screamed about her husband who was killed in Vietnam.
Prior to trial, the defendant moved to offer evidence of the victim’s prior sexual conduct. The district court permitted evidence relating to prior sexual conduct between the victim and the defendant, but did not allow evidence of a sexual encounter with a different man. The witness would have testified that the victim started screaming about her husband who was killed in Vietnam after they had sex. The trial court excluded the evidence because there was not an offer of proof by the defendant that the victim made a prior false complaint of sexual assault. The defendant claimed the evidence should be allowed as it shows a pattern of conduct, is highly relevant, and essential to the defense. He claims not allowing the evidence violated his constitutional right of confrontation under the United States Constitution (“Constitution”).
Issue. Whether evidence of the victim’s prior sexual conduct should be admissible to establish a pattern of conduct by the victim?
Held. Judge Borden issued the Court’s opinion, holding there is no error because the evidence was irrelevant and was properly not admitted, and did not deny the defendant his constitutional rights.
Discussion. Points of Law - for Law School Success
The well-known object of this section of the constitution, which declares that no law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title, was to secure to every distinct measure of legislation a separate consideration and decision, dependent solely upon its individual merits, by prohibiting the fraudulent insertion therein of matters wholly foreign, and in no way related to or connected with its subject, and by preventing the combination of different measures, dissimilar in character, purposes and objects, but united together with the sole view, by this means, of compelling the requisite support to secure their passage. View Full Point of Law
One similar instance of conduct is not enough to establish a pattern. There were no other instances offered by the defendant, or similar conduct in prior sexual relations between victim and the defendant.