Thursday, January 24, 2008
Keystone Case: Pennsylvania Court Finds Evidence of Lesbian Relationship Inadmissible Under Rape Shield Law
Last April, Preston C. Gaddis was charged with rape, sexual assault, and indecent assault after police said he threw a 19 year-old woman onto the floor and raped her in his Pennsylvania home, despite her pleas that he stop. Last week, Gaddis tried to introduce evidence of the alleged victim's relationship with another woman to prove several elements of his defense. Specifically, he argued, inter alia, that the alleged victim was uncertain about her sexual preference and was using intercourse with him as an attempt to determine whether she was homosexual or heterosexual. He claimed that when the experience did not turn out the way that she expected, she leveled the charges of rape against him despite the sex being consensual. The prosecution opposed the introduction of this evidence, claiming that it was inadmissible under Pennsylvania's version of the Rape Shield Law, which generally prohibits the introduction of past sexual behavior by alleged victims based upon fears that jurors will judge them promiscuous or 'asking for it'.
This week, the court agreed with the prosecution, finding that the evidence of the alleged victim's previous relationship with another woman was inadmissible. What this case thus seems to reveal is that even though Pennsylvania's Rape Shield Law is worded differently than Federal Rule of Evidence 412, they have the same scope. Federal Rule of Evidence 412 states that in any civil or criminal proceeding alleging sexual misconduct, two type of evidence are admissible unless exceptions apply:
(1) Evidence offered to prove that any alleged victim engaged in other sexual behavior, and
(2) Evidence offered to prove any alleged victim's sexual predisposition.
As noted in the Advisory Committee's Notes, evidence of other sexual behavior includes physical contact such as sexual intercourse, and activities of the mind, such as fantasies or dreams. Evidence of sexual predisposition includes "the alleged victim's mode of dress, speech, or life-style."
Pennsylvania has not adopted a counterpart to Rule 412, but under 18 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3104, "[e]vidence of specific instances of the alleged victim’s past sexual conduct, opinion evidence of the alleged victim’s past sexual conduct, and reputation evidence of the alleged victim’s past sexual conduct shall not be admissible in prosecutions under this chapter except evidence of the alleged victim’s past sexual conduct with the defendant where consent of the alleged victim is at issue and such evidence is otherwise admissible pursuant to the rules of evidence."
If the use of "sexual conduct" in the Pennsylvania were merely equated with the use of "sexual behavior" in Rule 412, evidence of an alleged victim's sexual preference would likely not be excluded under 18 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3104 because it is "life-style" evidence covered under the "sexual predisposition" heading in Rule 412. The Gaddis case, however, indicates that such lifestyle evidence is presumably included under 18 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3104, making it functionally equivalent to Rule 412 in that regard.