Legislature(1993 - 1994)
1994-03-09 House JournalFull Journal pdf
1994-03-09 House Journal Page 2687 HB 525 HOUSE BILL NO. 525 by the House Rules Committee by request of the Governor, entitled: "An Act amending Alaska Rule of Evidence 404, relating to the admissibility of certain character evidence in court proceedings." was read the first time and referred to the Judiciary and Finance Committees. The following fiscal notes apply: Zero fiscal notes (2), Dept. of Administration, 3/9/94 Zero fiscal note, Dept. of Public Safety, 3/9/94 Zero fiscal note, Dept. of Law, 3/9/94 The Governor's transmittal letter, dated March 9, 1994, appears below: "Dear Speaker Barnes: Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution, I am transmitting a bill that amends Alaska Rule of Evidence 404 in several respects to help protect the victims of crimes in this state. In far too many cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse, Alaska's victims are often themselves "put on trial" in the course of criminal proceedings. The emotional trauma that such crime victims routinely suffer in the criminal justice system can in some cases be nearly as traumatic as the crime itself. 1994-03-09 House Journal Page 2688 HB 525 Therefore, in order to address these problems and to better protect Alaska's citizenry, especially women and children who are frequently the victims of these crimes, we have proposed three changes to Rule of Evidence 404 which are intended to accomplish the following three goals. The first goal is to reduce the number of times a sexual assault victim is "put on trial" by authorizing the admission into evidence of other sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults by the defendant if the defendant claims that the victim voluntarily "consented" to the sexual activity. When a defendant argues that the victim consented, the prosecution should be permitted to stand up for the victim and rebut this claim by introducing evidence to the jury that the defendant has sexually assaulted or attempted to sexually assault other victims in the past. The second goal is to similarly protect Alaska's sexually abused children. Rule of Evidence 404(b) was intended to prevent sexual predators and other child abusers from manipulating juries by hiding their past crimes of this type. Unfortunately, a confusing and unnecessary phrase -- "to show a common scheme or plan" -- has been misinterpreted by several Alaska courts to exclude evidence meant to be allowed under the rule. This bill would fix that problem by simply eliminating this confusing phrase. Evidence of other sexual assaults or sexual abuse by the defendant toward the same or another child should be admissible if those acts are similar to the offense charged, whether or not the evidence demonstrates a "common scheme or plan." This bill also specifies a 10-year time period as being not too remote for the admissibility of evidence of prior similar sexual assaults or sexual abuse offenses committed by the defendant against children. The third goal relates to evidence of past violence on the part of the defendant. In cases of domestic violence and other violent crimes, the defendant often claims that the victim was the initial aggressor. The defendant claims, in essence, that "the victim hit me first" and that therefore the victim "had it coming." Under the existing rule of evidence, the defendant is then permitted to introduce all sorts of evidence about the victim's past reputation for violence -- and hide the 1994-03-09 House Journal Page 2689 HB 525 fact that the defendant's own past contains an even more violent record. This bill would fix the rule by permitting the prosecution to stand up for the victim, and to rebut these claims by introducing evidence of the defendant's own past violence. A defendant who claims that the victim was the aggressor should not be able to hide behind Rule 404 to keep a jury from learning that the defendant has an even greater reputation for violence in the community. The most common relevant character trait of the accused contemplated in this proposed amendment to Rule of Evidence 404(a) is the accuseds reputation for violence or aggression. The changes proposed in this bill will help level the playing field for the state in its efforts to combat crime. I urge your favorable action on this bill. Sincerely, /s/ Walter J. Hickel" Governor"