Is a complaining witness’s prior sexual misconduct admissible

Prof. Colin Miller has an interesting post about application of Rule 412, under Texas law, as decided in Johnson v. State, 2013 WL 531079 (Tex.App.-Waco 2013).

From Under the Shield: Court of Appeals of Texas Finds Rape Shield Rule Doesn’t Cover Alleged Victim’s Sexual Misconduct

Texas Rule of Evidence 412 mimics the federal rule which mimics the military rule.  I leave out most of the post and conclude with this.

The trial court, however, precluded Johnson from eliciting such testimony, finding that it was inadmissible under Texas Rule of Evidence 412. After Johnson was convicted, he appealed, claiming

that the excluded evidence (1) was admissible to rebut the false impression the State had left with the jury regarding the primary reason the complainant was in counseling, thereby opening the door for the sexual abuse evidence; (2) impeached the complainant’s testimony that his guilt in being the victim of sexual abuse was relieved when he made his outcry; and (3) supported the defense’s theory that the complainant had fabricated the abuse allegations against Appellant to get attention and sympathy for himself.

The Court of Appeals of Texas, Waco, agreed, concluding that

Appellant was entitled to present his defense. As a fundamental right, the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense. The complainant had already been adjudicated delinquent for sexually assaulting his younger sister. He was not particularly remorseful for that conduct, and his actions resulted in strained relations with his parents and the need for counseling. He was mad at Appellant, and, having been adjudicated delinquent for sexually assaulting his younger sister, he knew firsthand or should have known how damning and indefensible an accusation of sexual assault could be. Appellant was entitled to correct the misleading characterization of the complainant that the State had presented to the jury, but the trial court impermissibly limited his right to cross-examine both the complainant and other witnesses against Appellant and to present evidence. We therefore hold that the trial court abused its discretion by not allowing Appellant to cross-examine the complainant and other adverse witnesses with evidence of the complainant’s prior sexual victimization of his little sister.

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