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People of the State of Colorado v. Defendant Craig Dumene Williamson, Supreme Court of Colorado

2011 Colo. LEXIS 286

Nature of the case:

Second degree kidnapping and sexual assault.

Facts and Issues on Appeal:

The defendant claims the victim consented to have sex with him in exchange for money but concedes that he never paid the victim. At trial, the defendant made a motion to introduce evidence that the victim had been arrested on five separate occasions for soliciting prostitution from an undercover police officer. Because none of the incidents involved sexual contact or sexual intercourse, the court found the evidence admissible because it was not protected under Colorado’s Rape Shield statute. The prosecutor appealed arguing that solicitation of prostitution is prior sexual conduct, thus protected under the Rape Shied Statute. The court agreed with the prosecution, reasoning as follows:

Ruling & Rationale:

Evidence of past acts of solicitation of prostitution, even when no sexual contact or intercourse has occurred, is "sexual conduct" thus protected under Colorado's Rape Shield Statute. The language and structure of the statute, as well as other relevant sections of the criminal code relating to unlawful sexual behavior, envision the term "sexual conduct" to encompass a broad range of behaviors related, but not limited, to sexual contact and intercourse.

Editorial Comment

Although the appellate court reached the right decision, it is troubling that the trial level court did not understand the difference between conduct protected under the Rape Shield Statute and otherwise irrelevant conduct. In other words, the victim's grocery receipts are not covered by the Rape Shield Statute, but they are nevertheless irrelevant. This case is an example of a fairly chronic problem in that courts assume admissibility based on non-protection rather than relevancy. Ironically, it was this very problem that led to the enactment of rape-shield laws to begin with. Judges would allow in evidence of past sexual behavior to prove consent on the night in question - even when it was clear as a matter of relevancy that such past behavior was not probative of future behavior. Rape shield laws were intended as a stark reminder to judges that they should apply the concept of relevancy fairly. Thus, in this case, it should have been obvious that even without the statute, a victim's past involvement in soliciting for prostitution proves nothing about whether she was raped and kidnapped on the night in question.

Submitted By: Sabrina Andrews -- Law Student

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