EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Into the Dawn To Montana, Take 2: House Bill 295 Dies In The Senate Judiciary

Back in February, I wrote a post about Montana House Bill 295, which would have allowed for the admission of evidence of

(1) prior sexual assaults against criminal defendants charged with sexual assault, (2) prior acts of child molestation against criminal defendants charged with child molestation, and (3) prior acts of sexual assault and child molestation against civil parties in actions in which a claim for damages or other relief is predicated on that party's alleged commission of conduct constituting the offense of sexual assault or child molestation.

In other words, the Bill would have created Montana counterparts to Federal Rules of Evidence 413414, and 415.

When I wrote my February post, it looked these new rules would be an inevitability. House Bill 295 had passed by an 89-11 vote, and, as I noted, the Supreme Court of Montana's opinion in State v. Aakre, 46 P.3d 648 (Mont. 2002), seemed to foreclose the possibility of a constitutional challenge to these new rules if they passed the state senate.

The problem for the bill's advocates, though, was that the bill never made it past the state senate. In a strange turn of events, despite the overwhelming support for the bill in the state house and the lack of opposition to the bill, it died in the Senate Judiciary after a 5-7 vote. Unfortunately, I can't find any coverage of why the bill was voted down. Perhaps, like the court in Aakre, the Montana state senators realized that these rules allow for the convictions based upon aphorisms such as "Once a rapist, always a rapist" or "Once a child molester, always a child molester," rather than based upon evidence that the defendant actually committed the crime at issue. 

-CM 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2009/05/montana-413httpwwwbillingsgazettenetarticles20090430opinionguest10-paxinostxt.html

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