Friday, December 6, 2013
Yesterday, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was not charged with sexual assault. As per Florida law, 86 pages of investigative material was made public. Inside those pages, we can find probably the biggest reason for charges not being brought:
[I]nvestigators found a second DNA profile on the shorts the woman provided. (Winston's DNA profile was found on her underwear.) A defense attorney could use an unknown DNA profile as the foundation of his defense. If prosecutors couldn't positively identify the source of the unknown DNA profile, a defense attorney could suggest that the person who provided the other sample committed the rape. That would likely provide reasonable doubt in jurors' minds. So if Meggs was going to prosecute, he would have to identify that sample. "She acknowledged having sex with her boyfriend," Meggs said. "But she wouldn't tell me who her boyfriend was. Being a shrewd investigator, we found out, and we got his DNA." The investigation could have wrapped up more quickly if not for the delay, which required Meggs to enlist the help of a prosecutor in Ohio to request the boyfriend's DNA.
Let's take a look at the law that governs such evidence.
Section 794.022(2) of the Florida Statutes provides that
Specific instances of prior consensual sexual activity between the victim and any person other than the offender shall not be admitted into evidence in a prosecution under s. 794.011. However, such evidence may be admitted if it is first established to the court in a proceeding in camera that such evidence may prove that the defendant was not the source of the semen, pregnancy, injury, or disease; or, when consent by the victim is at issue, such evidence may be admitted if it is first established to the court in a proceeding in camera that such evidence tends to establish a pattern of conduct or behavior on the part of the victim which is so similar to the conduct or behavior in the case that it is relevant to the issue of consent.
This is Florida's rape shield rule, and, as you can see, it generally precludes evidence of any sexual acts of the alleged victim besides the one that led to the charges against the defendant. But, based on the investigative material released, it is clear that the defense could have established that Winston was not the source of certain DNA/semen found on the victim and used that evidence to claim that the victim slept with someone else relatively contemporaneously. And, what we know from cases like the Kobe Bryant prosecution, when such evidence is present, it is likely game over for the prosecution, which is why both cases end before they really started.
The defense attempted to introduce testimony that the victim engaged in sexual acts with persons other than appellant, and that such acts were the source of the abnormal physical findings. He sought to introduce such testimony because of the pediatrician's testimony concerning old and healed scarring. The trial judge apparently misinterpreted the defense's request as an attempt to put on improper evidence of the victim's lack of chastity and, thus, rejected his effort to proffer evidence concerning another source of the victim's injury.
On appeal, the court found this ruling was error and thus reversed the defendant's conviction.