The Power of Impeachment
Mr. Jason Miller was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. He appealed his conviction, claiming that the trial court improperly excluded evidence of the victim’s previous claims of sexual abuse.
While on the stand, the victim testified that she had never before been subjected to sexual abuse. The defense then questioned the victim about statements the victim had previously made to another person concerning past sexual abuse. When a lawyer seeks to introduce evidence which is not presented by the witness while currently testifying, such evidence is called extrinsic evidence. Extrinsic evidence is generally inadmissible. However, extrinsic evidence of prior inconsistent statements may be admissible if two requirements are met: One, the witness that supposedly made the prior inconsistent statement must be told the contents of the prior statement, and when, where and to whom the statement was made. Two, the witness must then be allowed to explain or deny such statement. This two-step process is referred to as laying a proper predicate. If the witness admits to having made the prior inconsistent statement, then the extrinsic evidence of such statement is inadmissible. If, on the other hand, the witness denies having made such statement, then the extrinsic evidence of that statement is admissible.
In this case, the defense asked the victim whether or not she had ever claimed in the past that she was the victim of sexual abuse. She responded that she had not. The defense then sought to impeach the victim by introducing evidence that the victim had in the past admitted being sexually assaulted. However, the defense merely asked the victim whether or not she had told someone she was assaulted. The defense failed to lay a proper predicate. Thus, the court correctly declined to admit the evidence.