A unanimous decision by the Ohio Supreme Court has held that Ohio’s rape-shield law prohibits an accuser’s consensual and non-consensual sexual activity from being admitted as evidence against the accuser, in rape cases. In an opinion released April 22, 2020, the high court upheld the rape and kidnapping convictions of Cedric Jeffries. In this case, Jeffries was accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a 12 year-old girl, over the course of nine years. He was convicted at trial, and was sentenced to a prison term of 15 years to life, along with classification as a Tier III sex offender. Within the records of the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, there was a report from the victim that another person had sexually assaulted her beforehand, which was unrelated to the case. The defense for Jeffries argued that the rape-shield law was limited to protecting victims from being harassed about their consensual sexual history, and therefore prior sexual assaults or non-consensual sexual activity were outside the scope of the protection of the rape-shield law. The trial court disagreed and ruled that the prior incident was indeed protected by the rape-shield law, and could not be used as evidence in Jeffries’ trial. The Ohio Supreme Court ultimately upheld the trial court’s ruling. This decision is definitely a set back for lawyers defending clients against these types of allegations. But all is not lost for the criminal defense bar, because the decision does NOT prohibit inquiry in to prior false allegations made by an accuser. This is an area of cross examination that can be vigorously probed by the defense, as long as there is credible evidence of the existence of false accusations by the accuser..
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