Texas Senate Bill 152 widens net of evidence against accused sex offenders

The Houston Chronicle has written a piece that opposes Texas Senate Bill 152. The piece characterizes SB 152 as a "shortcut" around established criminal law jurisprudence. Indeed, when it comes to SB 152, criminal defense lawyers and Democratic lawmakers have spoken out against it, one making the assertion that the proposed bill tramples on the U.S. Constitution: the bill would get nearly "guaranteed" guilty verdicts in sex crimes cases.

SB 152 has been characterized as a shortcut around criminal law because of how it purports to handle evidentiary matters at trial. For example, say a man is brought up on charges of sexual assault. Rather than trying the facts of the case against him in front of a jury - and only those facts regarding that specific case and those specific charges - SB 152 would allow a judge to consider prior and unrelated allegations of sex-related crimes. If the judge deems the unrelated allegations to have merit, the allegations can be used against the defendant in the current trial.

As reported by the Houston Chronicle, State Senator Royce West said, "All of us want to be law and order and the whole nine yards. But this is carving new ground in criminal jurisprudence. You ought to think long and hard, 'Is that fair?'"

The central problem with SB 152, as most critics would likely agree, is the manner in which sex crimes cases would be tried: It is not prior convictions that could be used against the defendant at trial - it is unfounded allegations, allegations which did not result in prosecution or a guilty verdict.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Judicial shortcut: Bill to loosen rules of evidence for sex crime trials is a bad idea," April 23, 2011

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