Friday, August 25, 2006

AD4: refusal to allow cross-examination concerning motive to fabricate rape allegations = denial of right to present a defense

People v Mc Farley, 2006 NY Slip Op 05447 [available here]

At his trial on allegations of raping a high school student, defendant Mc Farley attempted to elicit testimony that the complainant and her mom had a monetary motive for making the allegations, and that the complainant had commented to a friend (after watching the movie "Wild Things") that she would like to try falsely accusing somebody of rape. The trial court refused to allow defense counsel to explore these areas, and specifically restricted counsel's cross-examination accordingly. The Fourth Department reversed, holding that the trial court's ruling thwarted the defendant's right to present a defense. From the decision:

Defendant was entitled to explore his theory that the victim and her mother had a profit motive in accusing defendant of rape five months after the alleged rape occurred and his theory that the victim accused defendant of rape based on a movie she had seen.

[quotes from United States Supreme Court cases guaranteeing the right to present a defense and to cross-examine witnesses omitted]

Here, defendant sought to cross-examine a witness with respect to a statement by the victim's mother in which she had threatened to "sue." In addition, he sought to present testimony that the victim had watched the movie "Wild Things," which dealt with high school students who made false allegations of rape against a teacher, and that the victim had commented to a defense witness that she would like to "try it on somebody." "[E]xtrinsic proof tending to establish a reason to fabricate is never collateral," and the court erred in precluding defense counsel from presenting that proof.

(People v Mc Farley, cite.)

I'm sure there is a Denise Richards joke in here somewhere.