EvidenceProf Blog

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Going Unnoticed: Court Of Appeals Of Indiana Affirms Trial Court's Rape Shield Ruling

Indiana Rule of Evidence 412(a)(3), an exception to Iowa's rape shield rule, states that evidence of an alleged victim's sexual history can be admitted if it is "evidence that the victim's pregnancy at the time of trial was not caused by the defendant." Meanwhile, Indiana Rule of Evidence 412(b)(1) states that

If a party proposes to offer evidence under this rule, the following procedure must be followed:

A written motion must be filed at least ten days before trial describing the evidence. For good cause, a party may file such motion less than ten days before trial.

So, let's say that a defendant charged with child molesting and related crimes believes that another man caused the alleged victim's pregnancy but does not file a written motion at least ten days before trial because the "other man" was uncooperative with his deposition requests. Does this constitute "good cause," such that evidence of the sexual acts between the "other man" and the alleged victim could be presented at trial? According to the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Indiana in Jeffers v. State, 2011 WL 6088615 (Ind.App. 2011), the answer is "no."

In Jeffers, the facts were as stated above, with Nathaniel Jeffers being charged with child molesting and related crimes based upon acts allegedly committed against eight year-old A.P., the daughter of his girlfriend. At trial, the prosecution presented evidence that A.P. became pregnant (and aborted her pregnancy) and contracted chlamydia as a result of the sexual acts committed against her by Jeffers. In response, Jeffers sought to present evidence that A.P. was molested by Terry Essex, the brother of A.P.'s mother, who could have been the cause of the pregnancy/chlamydia.

The trial court precluded Jeffers from presenting this evidence, and, after he was convicted, he appealed, claiming, inter alia, that this ruling was erroneous. In addressing this argument, the Court of Appeals of Indina noted that Jeffers failed to comply with the notice requirement of Indiana Rule of Evidence 412(b)(1). Jeffers countered that that Essex had been uncooperative with his deposition requests, meaning that the trial court should have waived the notice requirement based upon good cause. The court disagreed, concluding that

Allegations had been made long before trial that Essex had also molested A.P. Prior to trial, the State represented to the trial court that the allegations were apparently unfounded as no charges would be filed against Essex. Additionally, a witness may assert a claim of Fifth Amendment privilege at a deposition....Consequently, there is no reversible error here, as Jeffers failed to file a pre-trial motion, and did not establish good cause for a later filing of such motion.



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