Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City

For Immediate Release 1/12/2017

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby joined Governor Larry Hogan, Senator James Brochin, and representatives of the Maryland State’s Attorney’s Association (MSAA) to announce critical legislation that will give prosecutors and courts the tools they need to ensure just outcomes in serial sexual assault and serial child molestation cases.

For four years, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has championed legislation that would bring Maryland Rules of Evidence in line with Federal Rules of Evidence, which already allow for the admissibility of prior sexually assaultive behavior in the prosecution of serial child molesters and sexual predators.

Under Federal Rules 413, evidence of other sexual assaults is admissible in a criminal trial in which the defendant is charged with sexual assault. Similarly, Federal Rule 414 permits the introduction of evidence involving a past sexual molestation in cases involving sexual abuse of a child.

In Maryland, serial rapists and serial child molesters understand that their prior predatory behavior and often their status as a sex offender is inadmissible in trial. Therefore, they often take advantage of this legal loophole by claiming the sex with their victims is consensual or that the child victim is fabricating.

For years, Nelson Clifford, convicted serial rapist, used this loophole in the law to escape justice four times before he was finally convicted in 2015 and sentenced to 30 years incarceration. Clifford was able to convince juries again and again that his sexually assaultive behavior was consensual despite DNA evidence, knowing that prosecutors were forbidden from telling juries about his other sexual assault charges. Clifford is just one of many serial predators from across Maryland who have been protected by this loophole.

Last year, the legislation had widespread support from service providers, prosecutors and concerned citizens throughout Maryland. Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello and the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office joined the fight in Annapolis, sharing the powerful story of 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell who was raped and murdered by a serial sex offender who had won multiple prior acquittals. 

Sponsored by Baltimore County Senator James Brochin in 2016, the bill passed unanimously in the Senate during the 2016 session, but was unsuccessful in the House despite overwhelming support by numerous delegates.

State’s Attorney Mosby and her allies are proposing requirements that would allow judges to admit evidence of prior sexual assaults when the consent defense is raised or when defense alleges fabrication by a child victim, rather than automatically declaring that all evidence of prior commission of these offenses are inherently prejudicial, ultimately bringing the evidence admissibility standards closer in line with Federal Rules 413 and 414.

“This is great news for not only Baltimore City, but the State of Maryland,” said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “We’ve trekked down to Annapolis with sexual assault survivors since 2013 in hopes of passing this necessary legislation. So, to learn on the second day of the legislative session that Governor Hogan has made this legislation a top priority in his legislative package makes me optimistic that 2017 will be the year we better protect our most vulnerable populations.”

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