Daily Bread for 9.14.23: Allowing Prior Sexual Assaults as Evidence at Trial

 Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of 72. Sunrise is 6:34 AM and sunset 7:06 PM for 12h 31m 46s of daytime. The moon is new with 0.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

On this day in 1994, the rest of the Major League Baseball season is canceled because of a strike.

  Henry Redman reports Wisconsin Supreme Court hears arguments in case on allowing prior sexual assault as evidence:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments in the first criminal case of its new term Wednesday, weighing if prior sexual assaults should be allowed to be used as evidence in sexual assault cases. 

The case, Wisconsin v. Seaton, involves a man accused of sexually assaulting his 17-year-old friend after she had been drinking. The man had also previously been accused of sexually assaulting a different 17-year-old girl after she had been drinking. 

The Waukesha County prosecutors in the case had filed a motion to have the prior assault admitted as “other acts evidence,” which allows previous actions by a criminal defendant to be admitted as evidence. The rules regarding other acts evidence are generally strict to avoid prejudicing juries against someone; with certain exceptions they generally limit the courts to consider only the evidence for the crime the defendant is charged with in that specific case. 

The Waukesha County judge trying the case denied the prosecution motion to admit the prior assault, which led prosecutors to file the appeal that the Supreme Court heard on Wednesday. The state is asking the Court to change the rules regarding the admissibility of other acts evidence and to allow incidents that would serve to bolster a victim’s credibility when there isn’t any physical evidence of the assault. 

(Emphasis added.) The key issue before the court is that the requested admissibility addresses a victim’s credibility. 

As Redman accurately reports, “[c]riminal appeals before the Court often result in unique coalitions among the justices, as the issues can’t be interpreted in ways that neatly align with their typical ideological alignments.” That’s right: it’s impossible to predict how the court will rule on a case like this, and relying on the general ideological disposition of the justices will get one nowhere.

See State v. Morris V. Seaton, 2021AP1399-CR.

James Webb Space Telescope captures Saturn’s changing season:

Imagery of Saturn captured by the James Webb Space Telescope in Nov. 2022 is superimposed over an image captured by Hubble. “Yellows represent bright and warm parts of Saturn’s atmosphere, while the purple areas are cooler and darker,” according to NASA. 

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