Does the Rape Shield law support Nesson's View that verdicts are to instill confidence in the public rather than maximizing the truth.

Essay by cyndyfun May 2005

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The Rape Shield Law that limits the use of a victim's prior sexual history as an attempt to undermine the credibility of the victim's testimony supports Charles Nesson's view of verdicts. It supports Nesson's views in the sense that verdicts are not about the evidence but rather by the event. Furthermore the Rape Shield Law promotes public confidence in verdicts because the public especially rape victims, are encouraged to report rape incidents.

Public confidence in verdicts is promoted a result of the Rape Shield Laws. Prior to this law, some courts restricted evidence of the victim's sexual relations with men other than the defendant to testimony of general reputation. Witnesses could be asked if the victim is known to be unchaste in the community. Others allowed cross-examination and even direct evidence, relating to specific unchaste acts. Also when a woman took a stand, the defense counsel could cross-examine her about the details of her past relations with other men.

In some States too, evidence of past specific acts must be available, not only for the purpose of being considered by the jury in deciding the weight and credibility of the victim's testimony, but for the purpose of inferring the probability of consent and discrediting her testimony. A defendant would surely like that privilege however it is embarrassing and discourage women from reporting rape cases. Susan Estrich (The Shield Law 291) also informs us that a defendant's knowledge of a woman's

sexual history would be relevant in determining his state of mind at the time of the intercourse, whether he believed that she was consenting to his advances. In this case

one might say that the prejudice of the evidence of a woman's sexual history exceeded its very probative value. However, with the prior rape law,