For Immediate Release: 3/25/15
Baltimore City State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, testified Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of Sen. Robert Cassilly’s (R – Harford County) legislation, SB 933. The bill supports survivors of sexual assault by bringing Maryland admissibility standards closer to federal standards.
Under Federal Rule 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.
SB 933 would require judges to give specific reasons before deciding to exclude relevant evidence of prior sexual assaults, instead of automatically declaring that all evidence of prior commission of these offenses are inherently prejudicial.
Along with Sen. Cassilly, Mosby’s panel of experts included former Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Anne Leitess, noted Baltimore City Special Victims Prosecutor Aaliyah Muhammad and Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association Coordinator Steven Kroll.
Leitess and Muhammad referenced Maryland cases where Maryland judges dismissed crucial pieces of evidence, or allowed an accused rapist to refute DNA evidence — linking the defendant to his victim — by claiming the sexual encounter was consensual.
Mosby drew contrast between the Maryland cases and the recent conviction of former NFL Safety, Darren Sharper, who pled no contest Tuesday as part of a “four-state plea deal.” Sharper faced rape allegations in Nevada, California, Louisiana and Arizona.
“Federal lawmakers realized more than twenty years ago that the rules of evidence should require special exceptions to protect the public from people like Darren Sharper,” Mosby testified. “The federal government took action on this issue more than 20 years ago. Maryland women, children, senior citizens, and law enforcement cannot afford to wait on these crucial protections any longer. The time to act is now.”
A similar bill was introduced on the House side by Del. Curt Anderson (D – Baltimore). Last year, Mosby and a group of sexual assault survivors from the non-profit, Phynyx Ministries, testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee alongside former PG County Delegate Aisha Braveboy — the lead sponsor of the bill in 2014.
“I’d like to thank the women of Phynyx Ministries for their continued support of this legislation and their courage to share their stories with the public. Protecting women and children is a bi-partisan issue. Legislators on both sides of the aisle from regions all over the State have stepped up to the challenge of rectifying this devastating and outdated procedural rule.” Mosby said.
Please contact Chairman Zirkin of Senate JPR to urge support for SB 933 at Bobby.Zirkin@senate.state.md.us / (410) 841-3131.