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A Better Partnership
September 23, 2013

MSC grants leave to decide whether Michigan’s Rape Shield statute prohibits evidence of a child’s prior sexual abuse.

In People v. Shaver, the defendant was convicted of sexually abusing his cousin’s two children.  At his trial he tried to introduce evidence that the children’s father had recently been convicted of criminal sexual conduct against at least one of the children.  The trial court did not allow the evidence.  After twice remanding the case for evidentiary hearings, the Michigan Court of Appeals ultimately upheld Shaver’s convictions.  The Michigan Supreme Court granted Shaver’s application for leave to appeal and asked the parties to brief three issues:

(1) whether evidence of a child’s prior sexual abuse is barred by the rape-shield statute, MCL 750.520j;

(2) if so, whether evidence of prior sexual abuse was nevertheless admissible in this instance to preserve the defendant’s right of confrontation and to present a defense; and

(3) whether any error in excluding evidence of prior sexual abuse was harmless. The court also invited amicus briefing from several organizations, including the Criminal Law Section of the Michigan Bar, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, and the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.

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