15:59, November 14 41 0 theguardian.com

2017-11-14 15:59:03
Roy Moore challenged Alabama law that protects rape victims, documents reveal

Roy Moore challenged the scope of an Alabama law that protects rape victims while serving as the most senior judge on the state’s highest court, according to a review of records.

As chief justice of Alabama’s supreme court, Moore twice argued that the state’s “rape shield” law should not prevent alleged sex offenders from using certain evidence about their underage accusers’ personal lives to discredit them.

The cases were among 10 between 2013 and 2016 where Moore dissented from the court’s majority view and sided with alleged offenders who were appealing to the court as part of their efforts to overturn convictions or punishments for sexual crimes.

Moore, 70, is under pressure from senior Republicans in Washington to step down as the party’s candidate for the special election to fill Alabama’s vacant US senate seat, following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

He was on Monday accused by a second woman of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager and he was a prosecutor. The woman, Beverly Young Nelson, said at a press conference that Moore had attacked her when she was 16.

Moore has refused to back down, claiming that the allegations against him are false. Last week Leigh Corfman, another Alabaman, alleged that Moore touched her crotch and made her touch his when she was 14.

Previously Moore was chief justice on Alabama’s supreme court from January 2013 until May 2016, when he was suspended for instructing judges in the state to continue enforcing Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage even after it was ruled unconstitutional. He had previously held the same job between 2001 and 2003.

A review by the Guardian of all decisions issued by the Alabama supreme court during Moore’s second stint found decisions on 16 criminal cases that involved alleged sexual crimes. Moore sided with the offender over state prosecutors in 13 of those cases.

On 10 occasions, this meant dissenting from the court’s majority view. Moore sided with the state in the other three cases.

Among Moore’s 10 dissents were those that sided with appeals by David Pittman, who had pleaded guilty to the rape of a 12-year-old girl. Moore in September 2015 said that Pittman ought to have been allowed to present evidence to court indicating that the girl had been sexually active and had a sexually transmitted disease.

“I believe this evidence could be relevant to the complaining witness’s alleged motive in accusing Pittman and that it is not barred by … the rape-shield rule,” Moore wrote in his dissent.

The Alabama rape-shield law includes an exception that says evidence against the accuser can be used if “excluding it would violate the defendant’s constitutional rights”. Moore argued in his dissent that Pittman was being denied his right to be confronted by any witnesses testifying against him.

The rape-shield law also arose in the case of Sherman Tate, a school mentor who was convicted of coercing two 15-year-old female students to touch him sexually. Moore argued in June 2014 that attorneys for Tate should have been allowed to tell jurors that he believed the girls were bisexual and in a relationship together.

Moore said evidence of a relationship between the teenage girls “could be relevant to the victims’ alleged bias against Tate or their collusion” and that this should not be barred by the state’s rape-shield rules.

He argued in his dissent that while the rape-shield law bars discussion of an alleged victim’s sexual history with other people, it “does not bar cross-examination regarding a victim’s romantic relationship or even sexual behavior with another complaining victim”.

An appeals court had already described Tate’s theory about his accusers’ sexual arrangements as “at best, speculative” and said it would have “confused the jury by diverting its attention to issues that were not germane to this trial.”

In both the Pittman and Tate cases, two other judges dissented from the court’s decision but did not specify whether they agreed with Moore’s reasoning.

Spokespeople for Moore had not responded to requests for comment by time of publication.

Among Moore’s other dissents from his colleagues on appeals relating to sexual crimes were the cases of:

– Eric Higdon, a daycare center intern convicted of raping a four-year-old boy and accused of assaulting several other young children. Moore in July 2015 said “sodomy is an abhorrent crime and should be strictly punished” but argued the evidence did not support a lower court’s finding that Higdon had assaulted a child using “forcible compulsion”.

– James Ware, who was convicted of raping a graduate student while she slept, leaving her bound and blindfolded. Moore in January 2014 argued that Ware should have been allowed to question in court every laboratory technician involved in tests that linked his DNA to the victim, rather than just their supervisor, who had testified.

– Lanice Bonds, a school police officer convicted of having sex with a 17-year-old student. Moore in April 2016 said that “although I do not condone the behavior” of Bonds, the courts should consider the notion that Bonds was not technically an employee of the school, and therefore may have been wrongly prosecuted.

– Robert Simmons, who was convicted of first-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse of a six-year-old girl. Moore in June 2015 said Simmons should be given a hearing to argue that he had not been adequately represented by his attorneys.

Records on cases heard by the Alabama supreme court during Moore’s first period in the job were not immediately available from the court. Seven cases involving sex crimes were unearthed in a Guardian review of an archive maintained by FindLaw, a commercial records service.

The review indicated that Moore sided with the alleged offender in four of the seven cases, with the state in two and delivered a mixed decision in the other case. Moore’s decisions were mostly in agreement with the majority of the court’s judges.