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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No Sex In The Interrogation Room: Prosecution Seeks To Introduce Oral Sex Evidence In Trial Of Man Who Microwaved His Infant Daughter

The sad and bizarre case of Joshua Mauldin has taken another strange turn.  Last year, after allegedly being called by the lord to be a preacher, Mauldin came to Galveston, Arkansas with his mother, wife, and  infant daughter.  Upon being left alone with his daughter in a hotel room, however, Mauldin became "agitated," punched her in the groin and threw her from one bed onto another.  He then placed her in the hotel room safe, before taking her out and placing the child in the room’s refrigerator, according to police reportsHe then took the child out of the refrigerator, placed her in the microwave oven and turned on the oven, according to police.  A police report indicates that Mauldin told detectives he took the child out after 10 to 20 seconds.  Mauldin's daughter was left with third degree burns and lost her left ear.  Mauldin has been charged with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury, which carries a possible prison term of 5 to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Mauldin has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.  He will try to convince the jury that his acts were the result of hallucinations, which he has suffered from since he was 10 years old.  The prosecution seeks to rebut that claim with evidence concerning the interrogation of Mauldin and its aftermath.  You see, days after the alleged criminal act, police questioned Mauldin in an interrogation room, and his wife thereafter asked for a few minutes alone with her husband.  The police officers granted the request but continued to watch and listen to the pair.  And, according to the officers, the Mauldins did not discuss the incident or their child's condition; instead, Mauldin's wife gave him oral sex.  Mauldin has denied that this act occurred, but the prosecution wants to introduce this evidence and claims that it is relevant.  According to the prosecution, "In a way it supports our case"...because the video shows a moment of lucidity that can be compared with the period of insanity at the time of the alleged incident.  Defense counsel has countered that this evidence is irrelevant and that the prosecution is merely trying to demonize Mauldin.

If the oral sex occurred and a discussion of the child's condition did not, I would call it strange and callous, but I don't really see how it would be relevant to Mauldin's case.  Under Arkansas Rule of Evidence 401, "'Relevant evidence' means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence."  Under Arkansas Rule of Evidence 402, irrelevant evidence is generally inadmissible.  Now, if defense counsel's argument was that the defendant was catatonic and never lucid, this evidence could potentially be relevant.  But defense counsel's claim seems to be that the defendant was usually lucid but that he suffered from occasional hallucinations, one of which allegedly occurred when he injured his daughter.  I don't see how proving that the defendant was lucid days later when he allegedly had oral sex with his wife, however, is relevant to whether he was hallucinating when he injured his daughter.

Similarly, if defense counsel's argument were somehow that Mauldin was negligent and did not intend to injure his daughter, the oral sex and non-discussion might be relevant to prove intent.  But again, this is not an intent-negligence dispute, but an intent-insanity dispute.  I thus don't see how the evidence could be seen as relevant.  Furthermore, even if the judge found the evidence relevant, he could still exclude it under Arkansas Rule of Evidence 403 if he found that its probative value was substantially outweighed by, inter alia, the danger of unfair prejudice.

-CM

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