A former college student accused of sexual assault should have been able to present an account from his accuser about her sexual history at trial, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled.
On Sept. 5, a three-judge panel of the appeals court ordered a new trial in the criminal case against ex-Clarion University student Darold Palmore, finding that a Clarion County trial judge erred in not allowing portions of the victim’s testimony into evidence.
According to Superior Court Judge Judith Ference Olson’s published opinion, Palmore and the victim were together in the defendant’s dorm room when he “forced himself on victim, kissed her, placed one hand under victim’s shirt touching her breast, and placed one hand down victim’s pants touching her vagina. Victim objected throughout this assault.”
Palmore was tried, convicted of indecent assault, disorderly conduct and harassment, and sentenced to up to roughly two years in prison. He was also designated a sexually violent predator by the court.
The defendant argued that the trial judge improperly barred from evidence information on the victim’s sexual history pursuant to the Rape Shield Law.
“In this case, appellant sought to admit evidence that he witnessed victim perform oral sex on his roommate. Appellant argued that he confronted victim about cheating on her boyfriend with his roommate and that he later informed victim’s boyfriend about the encounter,” Olson said. “He testified that he verbally informed victim’s boyfriend of the encounter and then communicated about the encounter in a Facebook Messenger conversation with victim’s boyfriend. Appellant theorized that victim accused him of sexual assault so that her boyfriend would not believe his story that he witnessed victim engaging in sexual conduct with appellant’s roommate.”
Palmore argued that the Rape Shield Law could not be used to bar relevant evidence that could be used to attack a witness’s credibility, and that doing so violated his right to confront his accuser.
Olson, joined by Judges Mary Murray and Kate Ford Elliott, said the trial court should have allowed the testimony.
“Appellant did not seek admission of the evidence to impugn victim’s character or label her as a promiscuous college student,” Olson said. “Instead, appellant sought admission of the evidence to get to the truth by challenging victim’s credibility. Thus, admission of the evidence does not deviate from the Rape Shield Law’s purpose of ‘prevent[ing] a trial from shifting its focus away from the culpability of the accused towards the virtue and chastity of the victim.’’”
Palmore is represented by Clarion County Chief Public Defender Erich Spessard.
“I appreciate the delicate balance that the Superior Court is recognizing between the interests of protecting potential prejudice to victims and the need for proper confrontation,” Spessard said. “We’re glad to have the jury get a complete look at all the relevant facts.”
Drew Welsh of the Clarion County District Attorney’s Office did not return a call seeking comment.
Read more at: https://www.law.com/thelegalintelligencer/2018/09/07/court-in-campus-sex-assault-case-evidence-of-victims-sexual-history-should-have-been-allowed/