Supreme Court nixes lap dance testimony in rape case | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Supreme Court nixes lap dance testimony in rape case

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 10:52 AM

The Arkansas Supreme Court today that a man facing a rape charge could not introduce testimony about a lap dance the victim demonstrated to another woman the night before the assault.

Judge Herbert Wright ruled on a pre-trial motion that the evidence could be introduced in the case of Miguel Cossio. The state appealed, In an opinion written by Justice Courtney Goodson, the Supreme Court said the lap dance was not relevant because Cossio was charged with raping a woman who was physically helpless or otherwise unable to give consent. She had a cast on her arm, had had stitches removed and was taking oxycodone.

Judge Wright had said the sexual conduct alone wasn't relevant under the rape shield statute that protects victims from testifying about their pasts, but could be used to establish a relationship among parties. The court majority disagreed.

We disagree that evidence of R.S.’s sexual conduct with Harrelson on July 8, 2015,was relevant and admissible under the rape-shield statute to show the res gestae of the charged offense. R.S. testified that Harrelson came over on July 8 to learn how to be an exotic dancer and that the sexual conduct on that night consisted only of lap dances between R.S. and Harrelson. There was no sexual intercourse on July 8, and there was no evidence that Cossio was directly engaged in any of the sexual conduct on that evening.

After the events on the evening of July 8, Cossio and Harrelson left R.S.’s apartment. The next evening, Cossio and Harrelson returned to R.S.’s apartment for the purpose of drinking and socializing. R.S. stated that she did not remember giving anyone lap dances on the evening  of July 9. The two social gatherings did not comprise a continuing sequence of events, nor was R.S.’s prior sexual conduct on July 8 intermingled or contemporaneous with the alleged rape by Cossio the next night. Thus, the circuit court clearly erred in finding that evidence of R.S.’s prior sexual conduct was relevant and admissible as part of the res gestae of the case. 
Justices Karen Baker and Jo Hart dissented. Both raised objections related to whether the lap dancing amounted to sexual contact. Hart noted that the victim had described the activity as simply lap dancing and "nothing sexual occurred."

The court reversed Wright's order that the testimony could be heard.

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