Wednesday, December 4, 2013

State v. Smith case brief

State v. Smith case brief summary
743 So.2d 199 (La. 1999)


CASE SYNOPSIS
On writ of certiorari to the First Circuit Court of Appeal, Parish of St. Tammany (Louisiana), defendant challenged his decision that affirmed his conviction for attempted indecent behavior with a juvenile. Decision found no abuse of discretion in trial court's refusal to permit defendant to present evidence of victim's allegedly false prior accusations of molestation on ground that such evidence was barred by the rape shield statute.

CASE FACTS
Victim told her mother's friend that defendant, victim's grandmother's husband, had touched her in inappropriate areas for years. Defense counsel attempted to cross-examine victim's mother about victim's similar accusations against her cousin. Victim subsequently recanted these accusations. Testimony regarding victim's prior allegations of sexual molestation were barred on basis of the rape shield statute, La. Code Evid. art. 412.

DISCUSSION

  • On appeal, court noted that defendant's conviction rested on trier of fact's credibility determinations because there was no physical evidence of sexual assault in this case. 
  • Court reasoned that defendant did not seek to introduce evidence of victim's past sexual behavior because he did not attempt to prove victim's prior sexual behavior or unchaste character. 
  • Thus, defendant's questioning regarding victim's prior false allegations concerning sexual behavior was not barred by rape shield statute. 
  • Court concluded that trial court's ruling that excluded this testimony was not harmless because jury verdict rested entirely on their perception of victim's veracity.

CONCLUSION
Judgment reversed and case remanded for new trial. Defendant's right to fair trial was violated when trial court precluded introduction of evidence that affected victim's credibility as a witness. Testimony regarding victim's past false accusations of sexual assault was not barred by the rape shield statute.

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