The bill provides a mechanism for the State to introduce evidence of a defendant’s other sexually assaultive behavior if relevant to a sex offense prosecution. If passed, in serial sexual assault and serial child molestation cases, this legislation will allow juries to be informed of a defendant’s similar past sexual assaultive behavior, allowing such evidence to be introduced when consent is used as a defense in rape cases and when fabrication of the minor victim is used as a defense in child molestation cases.
This legislation would bring Maryland closer to Federal Rules of Evidence. Under Federal Rules 413, evidence of other sexual assaults is admissible in a criminal trial in which the defendant is charged with sexual assault. Similarly, Federal Rule 414 permits the introduction of evidence involving a past sexual molestation in cases involving sexual abuse of a child.
Mosby has sought enactment of this bill for the past five years. The bill has enjoyed the continuous support of sexual assault advocates, sexual assault survivors, prosecutors, and policy makers in Annapolis. During the 2016 legislative session, the bill passed the Senate, but was not brought to the House for a vote.
“Serial sexual predators that rape women and molest children often do so time and time again,” said State’s Attorney Mosby. “From Bill Cosby to just last week Larry Nassar, alleged serial sexual predators have finally become the subjects of a national conversation and it is now time that we catch up with various other states with similar legislation to level the playing field for survivors of these heinous acts. Just as a victim’s past sexual history is allowed in court, so should the past acts of a sexual perpetrator.”
House Bill 301 is sponsored by Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary (D-13), who has been a longtime supporter of the Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act. Currently, the bill has 58 co-sponsors.
“Repeat offenders are going to trial banking on the fact that a jury will never hear that they are a registered sex offender standing trial for yet another brutal attack. This is completely unfair to survivors seeking justice and the public— who deserve adequate protection from serial predators,” Del. Atterbeary said.
Each year sexual assault survivors testify in support of the bill. Shatia Lansdowne-Ware shared her personal experiences with the criminal justice system after surviving an attack by serial rapist Nelson Clifford, who was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to 31 years in prison.
“I am here fighting for this legislation to prevent another family — maybe yours — from having to endure the turmoil we have…to turn our tragedy into triumph,” said Shatia Lansdowne-Ware.
Additionally, the Women Legislators of Maryland Caucus and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland support this legislation.
The cross-filed bill, Senate Bill 270, is sponsored by Senator Jim Brochin (D-42), who has been a consistent supporter of similar legislation for several legislative sessions.
“After 14 years, it is time to give women a voice. The scales of justice have been stacked in favor of the perpetrator,” said Senator Brochin. “The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act of 2018 gives victims of sexual assault a chance for justice.”