Evidence of Repeated Acts of Rape and Child Molestation: Reforming Utah Law to Permit the Propensity Inference

27 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2011  

Paul G. Cassell

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Evan S. Strassberg

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Abstract

In 1997, the Utah Supreme Court reversed Michael Doporto’s conviction for sodomy on a child, a sodomy Doporto committed on then seven-year-old Azure Wakefield, who was having a sleep over with Doporto’s daughter. The rape changed Azure’s life. She began to do poorly in school and tried desperately to distance herself from the girl who was raped by complaining about her appearance and using a different name while outside her home. However, the Utah Supreme Court found it necessary to grant Doporto a new trial because the trial court allowed two of Doporto’s other child victims to testify, thus causing Azure and her family to repeat a painful process that had already taken years of their lives.

This Article argues the court should have allowed evidence of prior sex offenses to show the defendant’s propensity to commit such crimes. Part I critiques the new legal doctrine that emerged from Doporto. Part II chronicles the unique story of the Utah Supreme Court’s recent reversal of its own decision in Doporto by an emergency amendment to the rules of evidence and discusses where Utah law on other crimes evidence stands today. Part III then explains that the court’s amendment to the rules does not go far enough toward guaranteeing that propensity evidence is admissible in Utah sex crime cases. The Article concludes that the rules should be further amended to allow prior crimes evidence to show the defendant’s propensity to commit sexual assault cases.

Keywords: Victim, Crime Victim, Impact Statements, Criminal Justice, Sentencing

Suggested Citation

Cassell, Paul G. and Strassberg, Evan S., Evidence of Repeated Acts of Rape and Child Molestation: Reforming Utah Law to Permit the Propensity Inference. Utah Law Review, 1998. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1885111

Paul G. Cassell (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
801-585-5202 (Phone)
801-581-6897 (Fax)

Evan S. Strassberg

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
37
Abstract Views
855