Rape Shield Laws Prevented Jurors From Hearing Evidence About the Victim’s Past

State laws give out tough punishments to the offenders while offering protection to victims, yet at times the technicalities of these laws often translate to seemingly unjust punishments to those who have committed a crime. Last June, a jury convicted Demetrius Richardson, a 26-year-old man from Elyria, Ohio of rape for having sex with a 12-year-old girl.

When asked about the outcome of the case, however, several of the jurors felt that justice may not have been served to Richardson. As a sex crimes lawyer, I understand the principles behind the Rape Shield Laws are to protect alleged victims from being ripped to shreds on the stand, with every aspect of their sexual history subject to cross-examination and questioning. However, it is very difficult to attack an alleged victim’s credibility on the stand when you are limited in the kinds of questions you may ask. This can make it difficult to get all relevant information to the jury. In Richardson’s case, jurors were prevented from knowing certain information about the alleged victim, and afterward some felt conflicted about the sentences.

Ohio’s Rape Shield Law

Richardson was convicted of statutory rape. Under Ohio law, it’s illegal for any adult to have sex with anyone younger than 13 years old, even if the act was consensual and the older person is unaware of the victim’s age. Richardson did not deny having sex with the girl, yet insisted that he believed that she was far older.

According to Richardson, he met the girl, who recently turned 13, on an adults-only dating app but she lied to him, stating she was 19. He also learned that the girl was a smoker, had a 2-year-old child with her, and an unfinished tattoo. The girl further claimed that the 2-year-old girl, which turned out to be her niece, was her daughter.

After the trial ended several jurors were horrified to learn that the girl had a history of having sex with older men. Judge Michele Silva Arredondo raised Ohio’s Rape Shield Law, which precludes the admission of previous cases, to bar any discussion of the girl’s past which could have been used to help defend Richardson’s case.

Justice Not Served

After the conviction, jurors were shocked to learn that Richardson faces 10 years to life in prison for his rape charges. “We didn’t think he was a guy who deserved to be locked up for at least 10 years,” said juror Brian Sapola from Avon Lake. Another juror, Glenda Madden from North Ridgeville, said that justice wasn’t served in Richardson’s case.

Early in July, Richardson’s legal team formally asked a county judge for a retrial, arguing that juror misconduct led to a unanimous verdict for the conviction of her client.

North Carolina law states that anyone under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to a sexual encounter. If convicted, people face incredibly stiff punishments that can include several years in prison all the way up to life, followed by sex offender registration requirements and lengthy periods of supervised probation if they get out of prison.

Protect your rights if you are charged with a sex crime by working with experienced Raleigh sex crimes lawyers, like those at Kurtz & Blum, PLLC. It is important to have an experienced sex crimes attorney handling your case to stand up for your rights and prepare the best defense possible.