Commonwealth v. Rogers, 8 EAP 2020, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Brief of Amici Curiae in Support of the Commonwealth

In this amicus brief, AEquitas, the Women’s Law Project, and 26 additional amici share their expertise in support of a determination that Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law does not permit the introduction of evidence of a complainant’s criminal record for prostitution-related offenses. Introducing this evidence would reinforce prejudicial gender and racial biases that would inhibit justice from prevailing and increase the burden of a criminal record on victims of sexual violence and exploitation.Amicus-Curiae-Brief-with-Time-Stamp

Shielding the Victim: Litigating Rape Shield Motions

Rape shield laws provide prosecutors with a powerful tool to counter defense attempts to introduce irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence of a victim’s sexual history at trial. First codified into law in 1974 in the state of Michigan, rape shield provisions now exist in every jurisdiction in the United States. They seek to eliminate the influence of an archaic and dangerous body of law that protected only the chaste, perpetuated overly broad notions of consent, and left victims without justice. All rape shield laws require exclusion of the victim’s prior sexual conduct unless the evidence falls within a specified exception. However, these laws have not stopped defense attempts to stretch the limits of codified exceptions in order to admit evidence of the victim’s sexual behavior. Marginalized communities, in particular, have been negatively affected by rulings under these laws. Prosecutors must be vigilant in their efforts to safeguard victims’ privacy to ensure they are not humiliated, silenced, and blamed for their own assaults.

This presentation discusses the history and foundation of rape shield laws, identifies and discusses the most frequent areas of appellate litigation, and provides prosecutors with the tools to effectively litigate rape shield motions. Presenters also discuss trial strategies to employ if efforts to preclude information about a victim’s prior sexual conduct are unsuccessful.

As a result of this presentation, participants will be able to:
-Litigate rape shield motions to protect victim privacy
-Prosecute cases using an offender-focused approach
-Employ strategies to mitigate harm to the victim and the case when evidence of victim’s prior sexual conduct is admitted

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-03987-MUMU awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

“Next-Level” Compulsion of Victim Testimony in Crimes of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence: Prosecutorial Considerations Before Using Bench Warrants/Body Attachments and Material Witness Warrants

This article examines the considerations that should be weighed in deciding whether to employ next-level measures, such as material witness warrants and body attachments, to compel victim testimony in sexual and intimate partner violence cases. While prosecutors have a great deal of discretion in deciding whether to use compulsive measures beyond issuance of a subpoena, the decision to resort to such measures should be made with great care and with an awareness of the potential consequences, as well as consideration of possible alternatives.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Next-Level Compulsion of Victim Testimony

Just Exits: Achieving Justice: The Prosecutor’s Role

The criminal justice system can serve as both an on-ramp to and an off-ramp from sex trafficking and exploitation. As gatekeepers within the criminal justice system, prosecutors are uniquely positioned to identify sexually exploited women and girls, make fair charging decisions, facilitate criminal record relief, and link survivors with services and support. In these ways, prosecutors can clear the way to a different life path and achieve justice for survivors. 

The presenters bring their lived and professional experience to this presentation, which emphasizes prosecutors’ duties to achieve justice over convictions and to proactively remedy wrongful convictions. Presenters discuss strategies for engaging survivors, avoiding wrongful criminalization, and providing access to just criminal record relief.

Rape Shield

We have developed three individual resources on rape shield, to include a survey of United States statutes, a collection of relevant case law, and a chart surveying the rules of admissibility across the country.

Making It Stick: Protecting the Record for Appeal

Having a sexual assault, domestic violence, or human trafficking case reversed on appeal can result in a re-trial with stale evidence, reluctant witnesses, and a victim who is forced to relive the case when she is finally beginning to heal. Though the appellate process is unavoidable, a prosecutor can bring a measure of finality to the criminal justice process by carefully building a strong trial court record that supports the conviction and the sentence imposed and withstands appellate challenges. This article discusses the proper creation and protection of the record during all phases of a criminal case, focusing on investigation, charging, plea agreements, trial preparation and strategy, summation, and sentencing. It addresses pretrial motions, recommends the use of trial briefs on anticipated trial problems, and explains how strategic charging decisions can result in admission of evidence that might otherwise be excluded.



SAJI Annotated Bibliography (June 2017)

This bibliography provides an extensive list of studies, best practices, strategies and other resources to support the prosecution of sexual assault, from the victim’s initial report through trial. The annotations offer overviews for every source on topics such as: performance measures, conviction rates, standards of practice, criminal justice reform, promising practices, investigation, responding to witnesses, pretrial, and trial strategies.