rules of evidence

Domestic Violence - Flawed Bill

Rules of Evidence

The rules of evidence are very specific and have been hammered out at the Federal and State levels through years of experience in watching the results of criminal and civil cases. The intent of these rules are to provide for a fair and just outcome. One of the Oklahoma rules, Title 12 O.S. § 2404(A)(1), is to prevent what might be perceived by a jury as a bad character trait, or a previous crime, from being used by the prosecution to prejudice the jury’s opinion of the defendant, instead of letting the facts speak for themselves. There is an exception built right into this rule (Title 12 O.S. § 2404(B)), which says it may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity or absence of mistake or accident. This is a well thought out and well written statute.

Weakening the Rules of Evidence

In an attempt to once again weaken the rules of evidence and to fix something that is not broken, the Oklahoma State legislature has proposed a legislative bill (HOUSE BILL 1093) that will bypass the above rule in cases of domestic abuse. At first blush, you might say that maybe domestic abuse cases may need some special consideration, but on the contrary this a proposed law which will only stand to put at risk sending an innocent person to prison based on perception instead of facts. §2404(B) along with several other exceptions provide the prosecution ample opportunity to enter this type of evidence to show a pattern of behavior. Also, if a jury was to find a defendant guilty of the crime, then the defendant would be looking at a much stiffer punishment for having previously committed the crime of domestic abuse. This proposed new law does not offer greater opportunity for the truth to come out, but instead plays into the mudslinging insanity that has irreparably damaged innocent lives of late.

Especially Faulty Language in House Bill 1093

Beside the fact that this law is redundant and more effectively handled by the current statutes, it adds dangerous language that opens the door to broad interpretation and possible misuse.

Here is what I mean, look at the words highlighted below from § D of the proposed bill:

D. For purposes of this rule, "domestic violence or abuse" means any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behavior, violence or other act of abuse against a person in a relationship as specified in subsection C of Section 644 of Title 21 of the Oklahoma Statutes. The violence or abuse may be psychological, physical, sexual, economic or emotional.

The current statutes defining Domestic Assault and Battery couldn’t be clearer. Look for yourself, I have attached them to the bottom of this post.. This bills new definition of domestic violence or abuse would bring in an unrealistic number of normal domestic issues into the fold of what would be considered as domestic abuse. Remember that this applies to the following people: spouse, significant other, former person you lived with, or blood relative. You can no longer threaten those people in any way. No limiting sweets, sex, or spending money without a risk of that relationship being brought before a jury to be judged. You can’t even threaten such limitations.

Conclusion

Who among us is flawless? Who among us has had perfect relationships? When accused, should the prosecutor be able to spread before a jury all of your dirty laundry, or only that which is pertinent to the case at hand? This bill is redundant and flows from the same river that drowns our airwaves with fear mongering, innuendo, and unsubstantiated claims. Haven’t we learned from history? We have more than enough laws and rules of evidence (see below). Let’s focus our legislative energy on improving education and broadening our economic base for a stronger Oklahoma.

The Law

Title 21 O.S. 644(C)

Any person who commits any assault and battery against a current or former spouse, a present spouse of a former spouse, a former spouse of a present spouse, parents, a foster parent, a child, a person otherwise related by blood or marriage, a person with whom the defendant is or was in a dating relationship as defined by Section 60.1 of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes, an individual with whom the defendant has had a child, a person who formerly lived in the same household as the defendant, or a person living in the same household as the defendant shall be guilty of domestic abuse.

Title 21 O.S § 641. Definition of Assault.

An assault is any willful and unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do a corporal hurt to another.

Title 21 O.S § 642. Definition of Battery.

A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.