Local News

March 24, 2013

Life after accusation

Man acquitted of rape wants justice system reform

(Continued)

Georgia’s rape shield

Georgia’s rape shield law — 24-4-412 of the Georgia Code — prohibits the accuser’s sexual past from being introduced into evidence. Green said that while his accuser’s past was kept secret, his own supposed past — including unrelated incidents in which he allegedly behaved inappropriately with other female family members — was brought out for all to see.

At least as far back as 1976, writers in scholarly and professional journals were debating the merits of rape shield laws. Some said the accuser’s promiscuity could be critical to the defendant’s defense, suggesting that an unchaste woman would be more likely to agree to intercourse than a virtuous woman.

Poston said that before the shield law, some judges allowed evidence about the accuser’s sexual past into evidence, and some did not. The law still allows some such evidence in a few cases, such as if the accuser and defendant have a past history, but it severely restricts a lot of other information on the basis that it isn’t relevant.

“If you let all that in, what the defense strategically wants to do is put the victim on trial,” Poston said.

Murray agrees the shield is good in some instances, but not all.

“Because of the rape shield, they bend over backwards against any kind of character evidence coming in,” he said. “That’s not just because of the rape shield, but it’s a huge part of it ...

“I know they want to encourage victims to come forward, but in a situation like this ... she kept him in jail on her word alone.”

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