Legislature(1993 - 1994)

1994-03-09 House Journal

Full 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              
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           
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       
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.                                                                  
				Walter J. Hickel"