People in the Interest of D.F.A.E. J
2020 COA 89. No. 17CA0042. Juvenile Law—Delinquency—Voir Dire—Peremptory Challenge—Evidence—Rape Shield Statute.
June 11, 2020
A jury found D.F.A.E. (D.E.) guilty of enticement and one count of sexual assault, and the juvenile court adjudicated him delinquent for acts that, if committed by an adult, would constitute sexual assault and enticement of a child.
On appeal, D.E. argued that the juvenile court committed reversible error by not excusing a juror who disclosed relevant information after voir dire but before trial. During voir dire, Juror N answered “no” to questions about being a victim of a crime, specifically sexual assault, sexual contact, or rape. After the jury was sworn, Juror N disclosed to the court and counsel that her daughter had been date raped and became pregnant at age 14. Because Juror N didn’t intentionally withhold the information, and she expressed assurances that she could be fair and impartial, the juvenile court properly exercised its discretion when it allowed her to continue to serve on the jury. Further, even if D.E. would have exercised a peremptory challenge to strike Juror N, that, by itself, would not establish reversible prejudice.
D.E. next contended that the juvenile court abused its discretion by allowing the prosecution to introduce evidence of the victim’s virginity. Here, there was a single reference to the sexual assault examination notes about last sexual activity, and the court gave an appropriate limiting instruction before the jury heard an audio recording of the detective’s question to D.E. about the victim’s virginity. Therefore, any error in the admission of the virginity evidence was harmless.
D.E. further contended that the juvenile court abused its discretion by barring his evidence that the victim was actively seeking to lose her virginity. The rape shield statute creates a presumption that evidence relating to a victim’s prior sexual conduct is irrelevant. The juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in finding that D.E.’s offer of proof didn’t overcome the presumption that the evidence of the victim allegedly trying to lose her virginity was prohibited by the rape shield statute. Further, this evidence was irrelevant as to whether she consented to have sex with D.E, and the prejudicial effect of the evidence substantially outweighs any minimal relevance.
D.E. also argued that the juvenile court erred by allowing two expert witnesses to improperly bolster the victim’s credibility. However, the brief references to credibility did not substantially influence the verdict or affect the fairness of the proceedings.
The adjudication was affirmed.