Annapolis---Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby joined Delegate Marice Morales of Montgomery County and the leadership of several women’s organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and Maryland Working Families, to host the Women’s Rally in Annapolis on the evening of Monday, February 20, 2017. Together, they stood in solidarity to fight for and bring awareness to bills that support reproductive justice, earned sick/safe leave, and economic security, as well as prevent violence against women.
During the portion of the rally that focused on ending violence against women, State’s Attorney Mosby brought awareness to various bills that would create statewide tracking of evidence and would no longer require prosecutors from having to show evidence of physical resistance to prove cases of sexual assault.
Additionally, she was joined by sexual assault survivor Shatia Lansdowne-Ware to promote House Bill 369 and Senate Bill 316 – which will give prosecutors and courts the tools they need to ensure just outcomes in serial sexual assault and serial child molestation cases by allowing juries to be informed of a defendant’s similar past sexual assaultive behavior. This legislation would allow such evidence to be introduced when consent is used as a defense in rape cases and when fabrication of the minor victim is used as a defense in child molestation cases. If passed, this legislation would level the playing field for victims of sexual assault and discourage assailants from using consent and fabrication claims to hide the truth about rape and molestation.
“In light of the major success of the National Women’s March movement this past January and as a response to the potential threat of federal anti-women legislation and policies, my office partnered with various pro-women organizations and legislators and hosted the Women’s Rally in Annapolis last night. Together we will continue to highlight major pro-women legislative initiatives this session and ensure that Maryland remains a pro-woman state,” said Delegate Marice Morales.
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.
“I am thrilled to join in the national women’s movement and stand by our local champions for equality and inclusion,” said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “We will continue to protest violence against women through legislation such as HB 369 and SB 316, which would level the playing field for victims of sexual assault and discourage assailants from using consent and fabrication claims to hide the truth about rape and molestation.”
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, a convicted serial rapist, used this loophole in the law to escape justice four times before he was finally convicted in 2015 and sentenced to more than 31-1/2 years in prison. Using the DNA evidence to his advantage, Clifford was able to convince juries that his brutal attacks were consensual sexual encounters, knowing that prosecutors were forbidden from telling juries about his other sexual assault accusations and registration as a sexual offender.
Clifford is just one of many serial predators from across Maryland who have been protected by this loophole.
The legislation has gained widespread support from survivors, advocacy organizations, prosecutors and law enforcement throughout Maryland over the years. Last year, former Wicomico County State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello and Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis 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. This year, Governor Larry Hogan has made it a top priority of his legislative agenda.