Thursday, March 6, 2008
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals' recent reversal of Anthony Paul Free's conviction for lewd molestation reveals that (1) Oklahoma did not used to have state counterparts to Federal Rules of Evidence 414 and 415; and (2) that it recently enacted such counterparts. In 2005, Free was convicted of lewd molestation based upon his alleged molesting of a 7 year-old female relative. At trial, the prosecution proved its case in part through evidence that Free committed sex-crimes against a 9 year-old boy in Arkansas in 1985. In a 3-2 decision, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found that the trial judge erred in admitting this evidence because there was no connection between the two acts, the two acts were different, the genders of the victims were different, and the previous act was so remote in time as to have little probative value.
In a footnote, however, the court indicated that in new sexual assault and child molestation cases, the Oklahoma rules of evidence will be different based upon two new statutes enacted in 2007. These new statutes mirror Federal Rules of Evidence 414 and 415. They state that:
-In a criminal case in which the defendant is accused of an offense of sexual assault, evidence of the defendant's commission of another offense or offenses of sexual assault is admissible, and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant; and
-In a criminal case in which the defendant is accused of an offense of child molestation, evidence of the defendant's commission of another offense or offenses of child molestation is admissible, and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant.
Thus, in essence, in any criminal trial based upon an act of sexual assault or child molestation, past acts of sexual assault and child molestation will be admissible against the defendant. Oklahoma, however, has not enacted a counterpart to Federal Rule of Evidence 415, which allow for the admission of past acts of sexual assault and child molestation in civil cases premised upon an act of sexual assault or child molestation.